Starting Line

Brittany Perkins on the path to the Olympic trials

Just a few miles away from the Houston Marathon finish line in January, BRITTANY (COPELAND) PERKINS, a twenty-nine-year-old runner from Wilmington, faced a tough choice.

She could keep trucking at her current challenging pace, which would guarantee Perkins a personal record. Or, she could defy her tired legs and push even harder for a chance to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials. The 2-hour, 45-minute pacer loomed just in front of her. She would need to pass the pacer to qualify for the trials.

She had moments to make her move.

“Going into the race itself, I was definitely nervous. I knew it was going to hurt. I knew at some point doubt would creep in. But, I just tried to remind myself to run with my heart when my legs felt like stopping,” Perkins says.

After dedicating herself to training for this race day in and day out, Perkins did not want the effort to go to waste. Every morning, the mom of a two-year-old daughter would wake up at 4 a.m. to get a run in before heading to her full-time job at the New Hanover County Sheriff ’s Office, where she works as a case manager with a youth violence intervention program.

With the race clock ticking, Perkins considered what kind of phone call she wanted to make to her husband back home in Wilmington after crossing the finish line.

“So, I made a choice in that moment that, yes, I was going to ugly cry – not from disappointment, but because I was so freaking excited,” Perkins recalls. “I was going to call my husband and tell him I did it, that I would be going to Atlanta for the trials in 2020.”

With a final push, Perkins ran her last mile of the race in under 6 minutes and finished 26.2 miles in 2 hours, 44 minutes, and 15 seconds.

She had qualified for the Olympic Team Marathon Trials running an average pace of 6:16 per mile.

“I saw the clock ticking down. I saw 2:44 but couldn’t quite read the last numbers, so I just tried so hard to get to the line. And, when I was under the clock and saw I still had some time to spare, I was beyond excited,” Perkins says.

Like many children, Perkins dreamed of running in the Olympics. But, as she grew up, her hopes dwindled as she realized there are a lot of talented runners, and it’s rare to make it to the Olympic Games. Even when she ran track and field at East Carolina University, Perkins never gave the Olympics much thought.

“Now, I especially didn’t expect it or think it would happen at twenty-nine, as a working wife and mom,” Brittany Perkins says about qualifying for the 2020 Olympic trials. “I ran for my daughter. I want her to realize it’s never too late to chase your dreams,”

When Perkins began training with Wilmington- based Without Limits in 2012, her coach Tom Clifford mentioned that the Olympics could be in Perkins’ future. She initially shrugged off his comment. Still, she began achieving major milestones, such as qualifying for the Boston Marathon and then running Boston while pregnant.

It wasn’t until Perkins finished the 2018 Wrightsville Beach Marathon in 2 hours, 54 minutes, that she realized she was about 10 minutes shy of qualifying for the Olympic trials. Perkins and a close friend decided to give it a shot. She trained seven days a week, which included daily runs and strength training twice a week.

“It wasn’t easy that’s for sure. Running is my passion, and I don’t think I’d be me without it. Fortunately, I have a husband who told me to ‘Go for it!’ and provided constant encouragement, expressed his belief in my abilities, and gave free massages to aching legs,” Perkins says.

She also credits her parents and mother-inlaw with helping make her vision a reality by pitching in at home, which gives Perkins the opportunity to squeeze in training time.

“I’m thankful that they were patient with my scheduling issues and didn’t hold it against me when I was ‘hangry.’ I’m thankful for all the sacrifices they made to ensure that I could lace up my shoes and get out the door,” Perkins says.

After recently resting due to a body stress reaction from running, Perkins is now working on increasing her mileage and speed.

With the marathon team trials approaching in February 2020 in Atlanta, Perkins plans to get a couple of fast 5K races under her belt, which is her preferred racing distance. The Run for the Ta Tas in October and the WILMA Dash in May – in which she has previously come in as a top finisher – are a couple of her favorite local races.

Come fall, Perkins plans to begin intensely training for the Olympic trials. Perkins says she feels honored to represent Wilmington and hopes to toe the starting line with fellow runners from the Port City.

Follow Perkins running adventures, including her pursuit of the 2020 Olympic Trials, on Instagram @bperki15

 

To view more of photographer Megan Deitz’s work, go to megandeitz.com.

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Categories: Women to Watch

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