To catch a glimpse of Joy Miller running in the upcoming Beaufort Twilight Run at Habersham, you have to line up somewhere along the race route.
You also have to be prepared to not blink.
Miller, a former track scholar at USCB, is looking to use the 8th Annual BTR – a fundraiser for Riverview Charter School to be run March 19 – to set the record for the 10-mile race in the female division in South Carolina, currently at a brisk 59 minutes and 19 seconds.
“I know some of the fastest ladies in the South will be here,” said Miller. “I’m still going to give it a shot.”
A native of Cork, Ireland, Miller grew up with parents who were runners and who encouraged her efforts in track. She won her first Irish National Cross Country Championship when she was 12, and her work literally paid off when she accepted a full track scholarship from recruiters at Coastal Carolina University in 2007.
That’s what brought Miller to America, but she left Coastal Carolina after two years. As she fell out of love with running, she fell in love with Jay, a Marine who was soon to become her husband. When he received orders for Parris Island in 2013, he encouraged her to get back into running full-time.
She enrolled at USCB intent on finishing her education. She also took a shot at joining the track team.
Looking at her background and her renewed passion for competition, USCB awarded her a scholarship.
She rewarded them with a spot as an NAIA All-American honoree in the marathon at the 2014 Track and Field National Championship.
She plans to run her second Boston Marathon in April, and though races like the BTR could be seen as training for that event, her immediate goal is to make a name for herself right here in her adopted hometown of Beaufort.
“I’ve lived here for a while now and have met some amazing people who are like family,” she said. “Where better to break a record?”
It won’t be easy to break the women’s 10-mile record set in 1997 by Mary Ellen Kelly of Columbia. As part of the race format, the 10-mile race occurs after runners have already “warmed up” with a 5K.
Miller sounds up to the challenge.
“It will be pretty hard to after the 5K depending on how hard I have to push,” she said. “My goal is to place in the 5K and then leave it all out on the course for the 10-mile.”
She will surrounded by an estimated 2,600 participants and spectators. The USATF-sanctioned event has expanded this year to include six races, making it unique in offering something for every type of runner.
All of it comes with a view of the marshes and greens surrounding Habersham.
“I love going to races and meeting new people and being around a positive atmosphere,” she said. “Not only is it motivating but it's also addicting.”
Let’s hope she has the wind at her back, the sun in her face, and the cheers of thousands ringing in her ears.
Ryan Copeland is a Beaufort native. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.