In their words: The Palmetto 200

Yvonne Wenger

A team of 12 staff members from The Post and Courier set out April 30 for the Palmetto 200, an overnight 200-mile relay from Cayce to Folly Beach.

Press On, the paper's team, split into two vans with six runners each for the big adventure, which helped raise money for the YMCA of Greater Charleston on Cannon Street.

The team finished in 34 hours and 88 minutes. Members didn't finish last out of the 40 teams, but weren't far from the bottom.

The finishing place is a reflection of the different experience and ability levels of the teammates.

Below, novice runner and Statehouse reporter Yvonne Wenger describes her experience in the Palmetto 200.

Two other women on the team, Community Relations Manager Robie Scott and Press On captain and Moxie team member Melanie Balog, tell their stories online.

Half-marathon goal within reach

Sixteen weeks and 217.7 miles into my New Year's resolution and I weigh 170 pounds. I've lost maybe 5 pounds since January, and I am only that successful if I make sure to take my shoes off before I stand on the scale.

As I set out to help my team run 200 miles from Cayce to Folly Beach, I feel very discouraged. And so far from the goal I set more than four months ago to run a half-marathon (and by run a half-marathon I mean it doesn't matter what I do to cross the finish line as long as I lose enough weight to make all my ex-boyfriends on Facebook sorry).

At about 5 feet 7 inches, I am officially overweight on the BMI scale. I want to drop 40 pounds.

I watch "The Biggest Loser" looking for inspiration. I listen to Kanye -- "Harder, better, faster, stronger." I tell myself, "I can do this." And sometimes I believe it.

I have been searching for the small victories to keep me going: I have lost 4 inches on my waist. I am down 15 pounds since last summer. I can climb the three flights of steps to the Statehouse pressroom without losing my breath.

But I didn't imagine the boost I would get from running the Palmetto 200.

It was between my first and second of three legs that I had my "a-ha" moment. I was reading "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett on my Kindle (which, by the way, is a terrific book) at Santee State Park, and I looked around at the dozens of runners from the relay who were lounging on the grass. I thought to myself, "I am with them today."

The thought was powerful for me because I felt connected to these people who represent some of the things that I would like to become. I want to be fit and healthy as I enter my third decade. I want to feel proud of myself for being disciplined.

I set out on this journey that began with my signing up at the gym last June to lose the 45-plus pounds I had gained when I quit smoking. At that time, I remember thinking that you can wish for a lot of things to happen in your life, but getting in shape is attainable. I still feel like it is, at least more days than not.

When I started, I couldn't run for more than five minutes at a time. My longest stretch during the relay was 7 1/2 miles, and there was one day a few weeks ago that I made it 11 miles. I will run that half-marathon before the end of the year.

I am on my way. I am just not there yet.

Yvonne Wenger covers state politics from The Post and Courier's Columbia bureau.

Put one foot in front of the other

The Palmetto 200 wasn’t the first time I committed to an athletic adventure without fully comprehending what I was getting into.

The last time, I found myself hiking a rainforest in Costa Rica at record speed with a group of women from PrimeTime Fitness who sported titles such as marathoner, Spin instructor and triathlete. I am none of those things.

I did, however, manage to complete the hike with my dignity intact, an impressive personal record and enough energy to barrel down a whitewater river the next day.

I admit that at first I didn’t even bother to go to the website and find out what the Palmetto 200 involved. It sounded like fun, a new challenge, an opportunity to get to know my colleagues better and make new friends. So how bad could this be?

My sense of adventure far outweighed my athletic ability, but not that of my teammates. Among them were several former college athletes, marathoners and one woman who has run almost every day for the past 38 years. To be fair to them, I offered to back out. Thankfully, they wouldn’t let me.

So the training began. The great thing about running is that all you have to do is put one foot in front of the other and go. I clocked my time and my miles, and when I got tired, I slowed down or walked a little and then kept going. Overcoming small personal challenges like adding a mile or taking a minute or two off my time became addictive.

I fussed a little over my “running couture” until I realized that once you’re covered in sweat, it really doesn’t matter. And besides, who doesn’t look great with a glistening athletic glow? There’s something wonderfully liberating about putting your hair in a ponytail and heading down the street unencumbered by the requirements of appearance.

Race day came, and although I knew I was as prepared as possible, I was still apprehensive about running 12.4 miles, compounded by the fact that I would be running three legs of the race, at three different times (day and night) on less than five hours of sleep over 33 hours.

I stuck with my mantra: one foot in front of the other and go. It worked! The energy from the race, the encouragement of my teammates and my personal commitment to succeed led me across the finish line. I can’t wait for the next adventure.

Robie Scott is the community relations manager for The Post and Courier.

We’re all elite runners on this team

Running a relay gives you a whole new perspective on running, or, as our teammate Diette Courrege said, it turns running into a team sport.

I never played team sports. Heck, I never played any sports in school. I was a relative latecomer to running 10 years ago at age 27, but it struck a nerve with me, and now I can’t imagine not running.

As a veteran of 21 marathons, however, I had started to slip into not caring about how well I finished them, or figuring that my best finish times were behind me. But running 22.7 miles in just under 33 hours as part of a 12-member team gave me a fresh sense of commitment and purpose, as well as the opportunity to think about something and someone other than myself.

At a recent family gathering, my dad told me that I’m the most organized person in our family. Maybe that’s why I became captain of our Palmetto 200 team.

At times, the planning was a little overwhelming, but we accomplished a lot by keeping the e-mails flowing regularly and distributing tasks among team members.

I already have a list of improvements for next year’s run, including building a shelf for the back of the van to make packing and unpacking (and packing and unpacking) easier, bringing lots of extra batteries for flashlights and headlamps, and considering investing in a cargo carrier for the roof so we can bring some camping mattresses for those much-needed Friday afternoon naps in Santee Park.

Even though each person ran alone, I know I never felt alone. It’s as though each runner in a relay is an elite with a support staff of five people.

People in the van in our half of the 12-member team were checking on me, cheering for me, encouraging me when I started and congratulating me when I finished. And every runner had the same experience.

Seeing the amazement and satisfaction on the faces of our team members was absolutely worth it. Some of them had never run under these types of conditions: darkness, heat or back-to-back (to-back) runs. Some of our team members had never run as far as they ran during the race.

Many of them said they didn’t consider themselves runners, which I hope has changed now. We’re all runners, and we did something pretty amazing.

Melanie Balog is Newsroom web editor for The Post and Courier.