Firecracker 4-Miler Race Recap

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My absolute favorite way to spend Fourth of July is slurping vodka-infused watermelon slushes, juggling a hamburger + a hotdog in each hand, then face-planting into my mom's homemade flag-decorated coconut cake. But since the fam decided to make this year's holiday a week-long beach retreat, I thought it might be a good idea to put a brief halt to my barbecue binge by logging some miles at the 5th annual Laurel Hill Plantation Firecracker 4-Miler. (You know, just to keep any semblance of a summer bod in check. 😉 )

So on the morning of the 4th, I resisted the urge to snooze through my alarm which went off 30 minutes late, and sped through a 20-minute drive over to Laurel Hill Plantation in Mount Pleasant, SC. I arrived just in time to gander at all of the patriotic costumes socializing around me, and to listen to enough "God Bless America" tunes to really get in the zone. I had a funny feeling that with the help of my newly purchased "wings" and Toby Keith chanting in my head on repeat, I was going to have a killer race.

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So with about 5 minutes 'til showtime, all 88 of us star-spangled racers ventured over to the spray-painted starting line, where we fell into a wide, informal line-up that took me back to my cross country days. The nostalgia of standing in this formation got my nerves racing, but I enjoyed one last calming breath when the national anthem echoed through the crowd. Then the race director walked out in front of us, kneeled down and planted a firecracker on the ground. It took me a minute to realize that the bang of the burst would symbolize the starting gun-shot, but just as I put two-and-two together, a loud blast went off, the crowd cheered, and we kicked our race off with an energetic sprint.

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The first half-mile took us through an open grass field that filtered into a wooded trail, which we would loop around 2 times. At first I thought to myself, piece of cake, this course is flatter than my unpadded sports bra 😂, but after two left turns deeper into the woods, I realized that I would later come to know this trail as the "land of the brave", because of the suffocating humidity lurking in the trees and the countless tree roots that were determined to leave me on crutches. So by mile 1, I was definitely feeling the burn and I was already counting down the steps until I could cross that distant finish line (and be a vegetable on a beach somewhere the rest of the day).

Oh, and not to mention the incredibly tough competition I was facing! Once I saw about ten girls my age pass me in the first 5 minutes, reality set in that 1) my dreams of taking home 1st were slipping away one skinny shirtless chick at a time, and 2) I was obviously racing against the Lowcountry's cross-country all-stars of past and present.

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So as I entered the second mile of the race with mascara in my eyes and a cramp in my side, I continued cursing every root that stumped my toes and each skinny-minnie that passed me with ease. The tension in my body was high and my spirits were sinking lower and lower, until I eventually had to slow down for a quick 10-second walk. But then the most unexpected turn of events happened: as I was huffing and puffing with my head down, a girl probably half my age whispered, "you got this" as she passed me. I looked up in shock, partly believing she was really just pep-talking herself, and realized that she very selflessly wanted me to kick some butt too.

I picked my pace back up and sped into a strong stride, simply because that sweet stranger reminded me that I could. And then when I passed a pooped fella about 0.5-mile ahead, I paid it forward with a similar, "you're so close!" (Even though he politely declined my encouragement, explaining that he a few too many brewskies at last night's RiverDog's game and the only thing that would fix his pain would be a few more...🍻).

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It was funny, though, because throughout that last leg of the race, I saw so much of this infectious camaraderie spreading throughout all of us struggling soldiers. And I think it's because we all felt the wrath of those trails, and yet somehow we all wanted each other to finish on top. So that's when I realized this race wasn't about placing first or beating the other 88 folks who were racing with me. Because no matter who took home the first place prize, which very fittingly was a mind-blowing assortment of fireworks, we all would get to experience the winnings. You see, we all would get to feel the glory of crossing that hard-earned finish line, and we would all still get to see those breathtaking first-place fireworks in the Charleston sky that night.

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So with that newfound assurance, I sprinted out of the forest and into the final 100-yard dash of the race. As I raced towards the red, white, and blue decorated finishline, the truest sense of freedom pulsed through me. I gave those last few seconds everything I had: to honor my brave cousin who is currently fighting for our country overseas, to pay tribute to those who died fighting so that I could roam these breathtaking lands, and to honor the freedom I've been given to do what I love most. Racing through this trying course was worth every stumped toe and side cramp, knowing that it reminded me how great it feels to be free in this beautiful country I call home.

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RACE STATS:

30:17 finish time //   7:34 average pace //   3rd place F25-29 out of 5

11th place female out of 31 //   42nd place overall out of 88

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