I signed up for the Charleston Half Marathon this past September or October, knowing that winter is always hard for me and I would want something to keep me motivated to train at a challenging enough level to feel good but not so challenging that it would distract me from enjoying the holidays and my winter break. I also wanted to get out of the cold, to somewhere prettier and hopefully warmer.

I signed up for Charleston as my second half marathon before I’d even completed my first, at Richmond, knowing I’d caught the racing bug and even if Richmond had turned out to be an awful challenge, I didn’t want to give up. I wanted to get good at half marathons.

The Palmetto City as seen on runners' feet Photo credit Brian Cribb
The Palmetto City as seen on runners’ feet
Photo credit Brian Cribb

Since beginning my refresher training schedule six weeks ago, after taking an easy little break with only 2-3 mile runs a couple times a week for a couple of weeks after Richmond was over, I’ve put in over 100 miles of training runs, hours of weight-lifting, eaten vegetarian and vegan more often and upped my daily servings of fruit. I’m even going to yoga tonight before heading to the hotel by the airport so I’m not fighting rush hour traffic early in the morning to get to the airport on time for my early flight down to South Carolina.

I look at all of that above and I know I’m ready. I’m in great shape. I can feel that I’m in good shape. My body feels strong, my legs feel strong, my lungs and heart feel strong when I run. So why am I so nervous?

I don’t know. What if I wake up Saturday morning with the Avian bird flu? What if I can’t sleep Saturday night because people in my  hotel are partying really loudly? What if I get out on the course and my legs suddenly cramp up from a change in altitude or climate or something? What if legs get the runners’ version of stage fright, where you can practice practice practice perfectly in rehearsals but the moment the curtain goes up you freeze and your legs forget all their lines?

Going into my first half-marathon, I had quiet expectations of myself (I wanted to finish under 2:45 outwardly but inwardly I really wanted to finish under 2:30), but really, there was zero pressure. All I was out there to do was finish. No one has ever told me “Nevie, be a runner” or “Nevie, run this half-marathon.” To run has been my choice.

Nobody will die if I don’t PR on Saturday. And nobody’s life, including my own, will suddenly get 100 times better just because I PR on Saturday, if I do.

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I have trained hard, but that’s the hard part. The race is the fun part. The race is the party! Coming from an acting background, training is the rehearsal – only I don’t have a director or a cast counting on me, so it’s even better and pressure-free. In acting, opening night was always my favorite thing ever. Forget press night, invited dress, closing night, cast parties – opening night was magic.

And races? Every race is opening night. Running is always a new experience. Unless you’re running the same course with the same people day in, day out, there will always be something new (and even in theatre, there was always something new that could happen even with the same play with the same people night after night). But race day is the ultimate party.

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I get to see 13.1 miles of some of the best parts of Charleston – the Battery, King Street – on foot. The course is flat and my hill training is ready to knock it out of the park. It’s going to be cold on Saturday, but if I have to be photographed by official course photographers wearing a face mask, I’ll do it. Save the cutesy pictures for Disney. I’m there to party my hard-trained ass off and if I have to look like a bank robber to do it, well, all the more bad-ass.

My mantras are 1) Trust your training, 2) I run my own race, 3) I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, 4) One foot in front of the other, 5) Enjoy every second of this run because not everyone can do this, 6) and a number of lyrics from songs on my playlist which include all the words to Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor,” a bunch of Eric Church songs, and of course, “this one’s a fighter.”

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I’ve trained. My body knows what to do. I could PR and that would be cool, and I could ride a high for the rest of the weekend with my medal and my new little number to add to my OCD data-logging brain. Or whatever. I could not PR. I could finish in over 2:30, over 2:45. I could trip and fall at mile 6 and have to get bandaged up at first aid.

But the only sport I ever played as a kid was soccer, and I was the goalie, and you don’t come out of the game unless you break a bone, was always my rule. (And I did have to, once, poor left ring finger.) But scrapes, cuts, bruises, ouchies of whatever kind don’t stop me from finishing the race.

I may be slow but I’m not a quitter, and no matter what, Saturday night, I’ll be wearing my medal to dinner. No mishaps or slow time will stop me from knowing I can run a half-marathon and that’s not something everyone can say. Whatever my time says on Saturday, I know what I’m capable of and the medal at the finish line is just the icing on the cake of the journey that is training.

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See you in Charleston.

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