For Brenda Cooter, the fourth time was the charm.
Cooter, a Grovetown resident, qualified to be one of 20,000 participants in Monday's Boston Marathon with a 4-hour, 14-minute time at the Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville, Ala.
This will be her first time competing in the Boston Marathon even though she has qualified for it on three separate occasions. She was unable to make the trip to Boston in 1990, 1991, and 2001.
"I didn't have the money." Cooter said. "And I've got support (this year) too. I've got a husband that likes to run and we support each other."
This year's qualifying time came as a surprise to Cooter, who was helping to set the pace for a first-time marathoner in the less-than-perfect weather conditions. But with only minutes to spare, Cooter crossed the finish line qualifying in the 55-59 age group for Boston.
"I wasn't trying," Cooter said. "It was pouring down rain and 65 degrees. I didn't think I had a chance."
Running has been a passion for nearly half of Cooter's life. A chance encounter with a race organizer led to Cooter witnessing her first race. That experience sparked her interest. From that moment, running became a 25-year journey that has included many highs and lows.
"My first 10k took me over an hour," Cooter said. "I couldn't conceive of running 26 (miles). I was real sore the next day."
In the course of training after that first race, Cooter cut three minutes from her mile splits, but the results proved very painful.
"I went from a 10-minute mile to a seven-minute mile in three months and got a stress fracture," she said. "I did it training on a track, so I don't do any more track work."
That's not the only difficult time Cooter has been through in her running career. In 1990, a drunk driver slammed into her car, leaving her with a broken shoulder and several months of recovery before she was able to run again. But the Boone, N.C., native soon found herself back in competitive form.
She hopes to be in top form for the noon start on Monday. A nine-minute per mile pace for the first 18 miles is Cooter's plan. Then after the 18-mile mark, she will try to pick up the pace until the finish line in front of the Prudential Center in Boston.
Cooter doesn't think the infamous Heartbreak Hill or the Newton hills that are located late in the race will give her much trouble because of her experience running in the mountains as well as on the hills of North Augusta.
"I've run a half-marathon in Greenville, S.C., and that was a booger," Cooter said. "And I've run the Grandfather Mountain Marathon. That's the second-hardest in the country."
Cooter has been training for her appearance in Boston by running five miles every day at Fort Gordon before going to work, doing speed intervals, as well as taking a 15- to 20-mile run early every other Sunday morning.
She hopes her training method will give her an edge over the other 800 women in her age group in Boston. But her overall goals are simple.
"I want to run as long as I'm able to breathe," Cooter said. "I'm the type that if I couldn't run and I was in a wheel chair I'd be doing that. I'm just an athletic fanatic."
According to Cooter, running is not just a competition or a way to stay in shape; it has a recharging affect.
"You're addicted to it and you have withdrawals, but you can tell a difference in how you feel and your temperament if you don't get to do it because it makes you feel so much better."
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