I’ve run the 5-kilometer portion of the Charleston Distance Run most years for the past few years, and 2020 was going to be the year I finally ran the entire 15 miles.
I’ve run five half-marathons and countless other 5k races. But until this year, I’d never got up the nerve to sign up for the full Distance Run.
Besides being 15 miles, it takes place on Labor Day weekend. If that’s not actually the hottest part of the summer, it sure feels like it. It could be because by late August or early September, I’m sick of the heat.
I’ve seen other runners sweating hard on Kanawha Boulevard in mid July in preparation for the race, and thought to myself how smart I’ve been to train for races that take place in December or November. I really like avoiding heat stroke.
Then there’s the legendary Capital Punishment Hill. That doesn’t seem fun no matter what time of year it is.
At the same time, I’ve so wanted to do this race. There’s something about it that makes me nostalgic.
Maybe it’s because it seems like every Charleston runner has a story about running it. Maybe it’s the way the city comes out to cheer on the participants. Maybe it’s the spaghetti dinner. I don’t know.
My uncle would run it when I was a kid. I remember hearing that he’d trained for it by running Route 21 from Sissonville to Charleston. That seems like a crazy feat when you’re a kid.
In the past few years, he and I have started the 5k portion of the race together. I’m a slower runner, so despite our age difference, he finishes first. (My grandmother jokes that if I keep running, one day I’ll beat him).
When I got the news that the Distance Run was canceled for this year, I was not surprised. Even the Boston Marathon was canceled for this year. The organizers made the right move.
I would not have been able to run the race this year, anyway, because of cancer treatment. I started out the year training for the race by running the Carriage Trail hill. I think I had worked my way up to running 7 miles.
But I have not run since March when I was diagnosed, unfortunately.
I’m to a point in chemotherapy treatment where I get fatigued, even though I don’t exercise much. I walked a block in the heat Sunday morning and it was enough to make me sick.
But I will run again.
Race organizers gave us the option of having a refund for the registration fee or deferring it to next year. I chose to defer mine until next year. It’s my way of believing that I’ll recover from this. That I’ll get my life back. That cancer won’t have the final say.
When I was a reporter, I wrote a story about a woman who ran the 2015 Charleston Distance Run after finishing lung cancer treatment. She had run it before she was diagnosed and had a terrible time with it. When her cancer went into remission, she returned to conquer it.
I have to believe that I will, too.