Nelson Takes Top Honors at Flowertown Festival 10K

Personal trainers take top honors at Flowertown Run
Published Tuesday, March 16, 2010 1:36 PM

By Roger Lee

Meredith Nelson: 10K Female Winner

A former rugby player won the 2010 Flowertown Festival 10K Run March 13. Ian Blake, a 27-year-old personal trainer for Eco Fitness, edged out Chris Hicks of Florence to win the race. A relative newcomer to 10Ks, he has found the world of distance running to his liking. “I knew I couldn’t play rugby forever because of all the wear and tear it means for your body,” Blake said. “I wanted to do something else to stay in shape and running seemed to make sense because you always meet these runners who look so much younger than they actually are.” Blake crossed the finish line in 35 minutes, 51 seconds, which was five seconds ahead of Hicks. It was the first Flowertown race for the Mount Pleasant resident, who is a member of the TrySports Running Team. “There were three runners in the lead group for about the first four miles so I just focused on keeping pace and then one of the other guys fell back,” Blake said. “With about a mile to go, I was able to find another gear and pull ahead. I’ve only been to Summerville twice and the first time I didn’t really get past the interstate. I really enjoyed the course because it showed me a totally different side to the town.” David Bourgeois was the first runner registered under a Summerville address to finish. He had a 38:01 time. Meredith Nelson, who owns PrimeTime Fitness of Sullivan’s Island, won the Female Division. The 41-year-old personal trainer from Daniel Island finished the course in 45:21 to place 22nd overall. She is a former winner of the festival 5K event, but Saturday marked her first time winning the 10K. “I’ve been running here since the 90s,” she said. “It’s just such a great event from the course to the way it is run. Today wasn’t my best performance though. I’ve been under the weather the last week so I didn’t run as well as I’d hoped to.” The next closest female runner was Deanna Walter of Mt. Pleasant, who had a 46:07 time. Janet Carter, with a 47:41 mark, was the first female runner registered under a Summerville address to cross the finish line. A total of 840 participants registered for the 10K and 5K events. Race officials estimate with the 1-Mile Fun Run included, more than 1,000 people participated. Tom Mather, a 52-year-old ophthalmologist from Charleston, won the 5K race with a 17:15 time. A frequent Flowertown runner, it was not his first time winning. “I set an age group record on this course when I was 48 and finished in 15:24 so my time today was a little slow,” he said. “I felt pretty good through about a mile and a half and then I started getting tired.” Bradley McClelland, 16, of Summerville was the 5K runner-up. He finished with a 17:35 time. Rives Poe, a 32-year-old math teacher from Charleston, finished the 5K in 18:08 to win the Female Division and place fifth overall. “I had a good run and the weather was gorgeous so it was nice to be out here,” she said. “I just wanted to run a good race today because I’ve been injured for a while.” She and Nelson sometimes train together. Pinewood Prep third-grader Mikey Robinson won the 1-Mile Fun Run. For full results from the 10K and 5K events, visit or see Friday’s issue of The Summerville Journal Scene. Contact Roger Lee @ 873-9424 ext. 213 or

On the Road

By: Andrew Cohen
September 2008

Summary: A partnership targeting runners gives one health club a route to the tourist trade.

You emerge from the hotel elevator, having traded your business suit for running attire, pad across the lobby floor in your New Balance shoes, and ask the concierge if he or she can direct you to a good five-mile loop in the downtown area. The concierge, unfortunately, is wearing a name tag bearing a hometown a thousand miles away, and in any event lives in the suburbs, only coming downtown to go to work.

In short, no. You’re on your own.

A new company, City Running Tours (, is seeking to capitalize on just such a situation by offering guided running tours of New York City, Chicago, San Diego and Washington, D.C., as well as the two most recent additions: Austin, Texas, and Charleston, S.C. A runner simply logs onto the site and, via, pays $60 for a six-mile run (additional miles cost an extra $6). In return, each runner gets an experienced and knowledgeable running partner for training or touring (and at the desired pace), a set route or a customized itinerary, a City Running Tours T-shirt, a souvenir photo, discounts to local running stores, and product samples and information.

In Charleston, a health club owner, Meredith Nelson of PrimeTime Fitness, is seeking to capitalize on the situation, as well. When City Running Tours in January added this tourist destination — described by the local convention and visitors bureau with the tagline, “Charleston — Where History Lives” — Nelson was at the helm.

Presumably, such a partnership could eventually add more than a trickle to her revenue stream, but Nelson regards it with a characteristically relaxed attitude. “I don’t know my cut,” she says with a laugh. “I’m more of a fitness person than a businessperson. It’s like my play money; it’s not something I depend on for the club to operate. I get a check and I say, ‘Oh, yay.’ ”

Michael Gazaleh, founder of City Running Tours and New York’s tour operator, thought originally about franchising the concept, complete with a franchise fee, but decided that the cost to interested operators “might have been a little overwhelming to them,” he says. The revenue-share arrangement he settled on instead calls for operators to receive a minimum of 80 percent of the money, with incentives providing for the possibility of upping that figure to as much as 90 percent. gets a 6.5 percent surcharge from each runner (it comes to $3.90 for a six-mile run), and the tour operator pays tour guides out of its 80 percent. City Running Tours administers the transactions, which all occur online. Operators help defray the company’s advertising costs in each of the cities, with the amount dependent on the size of the local market; Nelson pays City Running Tours $150 a month for national and local publicity.

Nelson is both a runner (she’s one of 75 members of the Charleston Running Club) and a club operator, which makes her unique among the half-dozen City Running Tours operators. It also makes her an enthusiastic believer in the concept, since she tends to view it as an extension of services, such as personal training, that she already offers. Her only quibble is the group rate — a couple wanting to run together pays double the money, though each runner gets his or her own guide.

“I think the per-person price is reasonable,” she says. “When I’m in another city and want to work out, I’ll find a gym and I’ll work with a personal trainer. I tend to splurge when I’m away. I’m not so sure I would structure the prices the same way for a group run. I offer individual personal training for $70, and my price only jumps to $80 for two people.”

Nelson’s primary task is ensuring she has runners — and different types of runners — available to serve as guides whenever a call comes in. She relies on regular mass e-mails, keeping track of which guides are available at what times, which are able to run a six-minute versus a 10-minute mile, and so on. Fortunately, most visitors to the area schedule their runs far in advance, and it’s not always necessary to rely on the services of one runner — “I’ve got enough people,” she says, “that if I didn’t have a marathoner available, I could piece together a 20-mile run with more than one guide.”

Nelson’s other job has been to come up with routes in advance, in consultation with her guides, that account for tourist draws — historic homes and plantations, parks, state historical sites, the harbor, the downtown, Old City Market and Cabbage Row, to name a few. (It’s unfortunate, really, that Fort Sumter is unreachable without wings or pontoons.) Runners usually only sign up when they have some specific destination in mind — after all, a person can always just find a bike or pedestrian path, and go. Nelson recalls one client who wanted to see as much water as possible, but had a phobia that precluded running over the Cooper River Bridge — just the sort of person in need of help.

“If you’re training for a marathon, you want a route where you can avoid stops and starts,” Nelson says. “And for most tourists, it’s easy to get lost and easy to find themselves in not-so-friendly territory, for lack of a better phrase. It’s helpful to have a guide; people appreciate it. If they were to make a wrong turn out of their hotel, they might not have a good experience.”

New York, America’s number-one tourist destination, is City Running Tours’ top city, Gazaleh reports — eight to 10 guided runs a week in this, its third year in operation. “There are many great places to run — that’s why we’re here,” Gazaleh says. “We want to give runners the best route for whatever they’re doing, we try to give them a true local experience, and we keep it really personal.”

Nelson says the Charleston operation started slowly after its January debut, with tours topping out at about two a week before the South Carolina heat set in (running is a hard sell in the summer months). But she knows all about how long it takes to grow any business, having started her fitness studio out of her beach house before expanding once, moving into a dedicated key-access location, and then expanding that location to its current 2,400 square feet. This fall, after the weather breaks, she’ll get a better sense of how much of a revenue boost she can expect from offering running tours; she knows her fitness facility’s location across the harbor in Sullivan’s Island probably precludes her from successfully up-selling running clients on personal training or other workout services.

“They’d have to cross three bridges to get to me, and there’s probably a gym right around the corner from wherever they are, so it’s not like we can say, ‘Go for your run and come over to the gym afterwards,’ ” Nelson says. “That’s okay — it’s good PR. People think it’s a cool idea.”

Beginning at 5 a.m. every morning, two blocks from the white sandy beaches of Sullivan’s Island, the historic cottage community just across the river from Charleston, PrimeTime Fitness, a local gym and fitness studio, opens its doors. But if you’re looking for a neon sign of a sports multi-plex with automatic sliding glass doors, you’ll never find the building.

Instead, this enterprise is located in a one-story beach bungalow, complete with a screened-in front porch, ceiling fans in every room and the fading charm of a summer beach house.  Though it had once been a charming, cozy six-room cottage during its early years, its long exposure to the winds and sand of the Carolina Coast had left it somewhat faded and tired looking. But that all changed when Meredith Nelson arrived in town and rented the cottage for her residence.  She immediately realized that, under its worn exterior, the structure still retained a unique character and had much greater potential.

When she first moved to Sullivan’s Island in 2000, Meredith was working as a counselor in Charleston but had always dreamed of owning a fitness studio. It occurred to her that her new home might be converted into a small studio, as she first used the two extra rooms as workout space.

“Now’s my chance,” she thought, and her dream soon became a reality when PrimeTime Fitness opened that summer.  Meredith continued to live in the cottage during the studio’s first year and a half with her three cats. Today, she proudly runs her business with a personal touch and remains dedicated to helping her clients stay both mentally and physically fit.

PrimeTime Fitness boasts a variety of exercise programs, including workouts for seniors, teens and private group sessions. Many of her clients are fans of Spin & Sculpt, an intense cardio aerobics program.  “The idea actually came by suggestion from a client,” said Meredith, “And now it’s one of the most popular workouts.”

In addition to exercising, clients can get information on nutritional analysis and stress management. But according to Meredith, the success of her studio has a lot to do with its location.  “There are about 600 families on this island and only one gym,” she said, “They have to walk by it everyday, so they have no excuses.”

In recognition of the island setting, she utilizes the coastal environment to its fullest potential by conducting workouts on the beach and in local parks. And as the community supports the business, Prime Time Fitness has nurtured a sense of civic responsibility and developed a well-deserved reputation for its support of several charitable causes and community programs.  In addition to participating in local runs and cycling events, the studio actively supports a number of local fundraising events.

Perhaps she is most proud of her firm’s participation in the annual push-up contest, a Charleston-area event which she helped organize that, in the past three years, has raised several thousand dollars for the Boys & Girls Club.  “It all started with just our employees, and then we started challenging other gyms to participate,” said Meredith.

To encourage involvement of a broad market, Meredith offers a variety of programs with rates and content designed to fit individual needs.

Even after two separate additions to the cottage that expanded the space by at least 1600 square feet, the gym still feels like home, even though today she and her husband, Mark, reside in nearby Daniels Island.

Meredith recalls many people’s reactions to the atmosphere of the workout space. They are surprised that the interior is so spacious, yet patrons still feel like they’re working out at home. They can even change the radio station and watch TV, says Meredith.

Although most of her clientele live on the island, some make the commute from Mount Pleasant, Isle of Palms and even Charleston.  Throughout its eight-year existence, the studios popularity can be attributed to the combination of knowledgeable, supportive trainers, a diverse range of activities and a cozy atmosphere for exercise.

Ahh, the versatility of the cottage. But only in the hands of innovative, diligent people can a quaint beach bungalow be transformed into a booming business without losing its intimate features. And Meredith had just the creative mindset to make it  happen.

After all, anyone who has willingly set operating hours beginning at 5 a.m. must be dedicated, but the success of PrimeTime Fitness is living proof that the right combination of inspiration and hard work pays off.


Click here to visit PrimeTime Fitness and see Meredith’s video on using the stability ball.

Small Start, Big Success

By Anne B. McDonnell

March 2008

PrimeTime Fitness offers memberships and training programs in an intimate setting right on the beach.

PrimeTime Fitness is located in a turn-of-the-century beach house, and has the feel of a home, according to Owner/Trainer Meredith Nelson. Located on Sullivan’s Island, S.C. (recently named one of the most expensive zip codes in the U.S.), it is surrounded by sand and the ocean. “Its intimate size helps the staff of myself and three other trainers meet the needs of each one of our clients, from children and teens to older adults and people with disabilities,” says Nelson.PrimeTime is a key-access facility that allows members to work out anytime between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. It offers monthly memberships with no contracts or initiation fees, and provides personal training services for individuals, partners and small groups. “One of our most popular programs is our General Admission Group program, which is a set schedule of group workouts offered seven times a week,” says Nelson.

Another popular program is Outdoor Boot Camp, which takes place every year during the month of May. The classes are held daily for the entire month to get clients ready to hit the beach. Says Nelson, “Boot Camp was so popular last year that members wanted to continue their intense workouts beyond the one month. So, we created Survival School, a three-times-per-week outdoor class.” Boot Camp, Survival School, General Admission Groups and PrimeTime Spin (indoor cycling) are all profit centers for the facility.

Programs are determined based on demand and suggestions from clients. “Sometimes it’s the programs that we give little thought and preparation to that take off like mad,” says Nelson. For example, PrimeTime recently held a Jacob’s Ladder Challenge, which was created by the Jacob’s Ladder company. Members recorded their feet climbed during each session, and the trainers logged it onto the Jacob’s Ladder website. “We put no effort into this promotion — we simply described it in an email and on flyers posted in the club — and members clamored to get onto the Ladder,” Nelson says. “Had we known this challenge would have been so popular, we probably would have charged members to participate,” she says.


Sullivan’s Island, S.C.
843 883-0101;

Date facility opened: July 2000
Facility size: 2,500 square feet
Number of members: 75 monthly members, and about 50 private clients and group exercise members
Group exercise classes: Boot Camp, group cycling, Senior Fitness, yoga
Unique elements: Teams up with City Running Tours to provide guided runs through Charleston (

Since the facility has limited space, Nelson gives great thought to any major purchase. “Equipment has to be multi-purpose: It must be able to be used for more than one thing, in most cases,” she says. “I carefully plan the layout and placement of equipment, and use graph paper with little cutouts of the footprints of large pieces to determine the best arrangement.”

To promote the facility’s equipment and programs, a monthly e-newsletter is emailed to members. It features a spotlight on a client/member, and provides information on community events and happenings at the fitness center.

Community and facility events include charity work. Every year, PrimeTime gives three $500 scholarships to area college students. They are awarded based on an application that includes an essay on how they intend to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle through the challenges of college.

Another outreach program is a fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Club. Last year, PrimeTime trainers held a Push-Up Challenge. Clients and members pledged money for each push-up that was completed in 45 minutes. Together, the trainers raised almost $10,000.

The success of PrimeTime Fitness “is due to my hesitancy to start out too big,” says Nelson. PrimeTime began as an 800-square-foot personal training studio. As the demand for services grew, so did the building. After two additions, the facility is now about 2,500 square feet. Says Nelson, “I approached PrimeTime with an attitude of ‘give them a little, and when they want more, meet the demand.'”