The Running Whys – Sherri Colwell-McCavour

Sherri Colwell-McCavour displays the medals she received this year after completing her second Dopey Challenge at Disney in January.

Sherri Colwell-McCavour displays the medals she received this year after completing her second Dopey Challenge at Disney in January.

When Sherri Colwell-McCavour decided to improve her fitness more than a decade ago, her first walk consisted of 21 kilometres. It was a challenge, yes, but as she describes in today’s edition of the Running Whys, she greets challenges with glee. Ride a rollercoaster during a marathon. Yup, she’s done it. What follows is her enlightening, insightful, delightful and often humourous account of the reasons she runs, the lengths she has taken to achieve some of her goals and how she treasures the relationships she’s made along the way. So grab a cup of your favourite beverage, find a cozy spot and enjoy!

The Running Whys

by Sherri Colwell-McCavour

I have to say, I was very honoured to have been contacted back in late May and asked if I would like to be a contributor to 2015’s Running Whys for MBTS. It was approximately five minutes later when I thought “Good grief. I have nothing worthwhile to contribute to this great forum! These days I spend most of my time working to meet deadlines and praying I can get at least one decent workout in during the week. I don’t feel like much of a runner these days!”

Over the past several months, I have been neck deep in work-related activities, children’s commitments, family obligations and honestly didn’t know what to write. I was no longer sure as to what my motivation for running was and certainly didn’t know how I could articulate why I had started it up all those years ago. I was in full blown avoidance mode lol. “If I bury myself in work, I can avoid running, and therefore avoid thinking about why I actually wanted to start running in the first place, etc.”

It was after receiving a gentle reminder from the ever-patient gentleman who originally contacted me asking about my contribution that I thought, “OK, enough…. I need to take a deep breath, think back and remember the real reason why…”

I have to tell you, for years I couldn’t understand the appeal of running.

Years ago while walking or cycling to the gym (my feet and bike were my primary modes of transportation while growing up and into my early 20s), I would see people running by me and think ‘Dude, where the heck are you running to? Is someone chasing you? Is there something of fire? What did you steal? Should I be running too???’

Sherri 2 - Sherri Colwell-McCavour races to the finish line as she completes the full marathon in the 2013 Marathon by the Sea.

Sherri Colwell-McCavour races to the finish line as she completes the full marathon in the 2013 Marathon by the Sea.

I couldn’t fathom the reasoning behind why someone would strap on sneakers and just run. It was several years (okay, it was actually almost two decades) later before I finally understood…

2003 was my turnaround year.

I was enjoying the last few months of maternity leave with our youngest but was struggling to lose the last few pregnancy pounds. I was due back to work in the fall and really wanted to get rid of that pesky extra poundage when I came up with what I thought was a brilliant idea…

Since my husband and I had made arrangements for both children to spend three mornings a week with our babysitter to help with the transition to full-time attendance, I decided it would be the perfect time to execute my ‘plan’.

In the lead up to the 2015 Emera Marathon by the Sea, we have also featured Jesse Davidson, Jason Kaulbach, Jacqueline Boucher, Jen Payne, Mark Clinton, Patty MacMillan, Haley Adams-Green, Dean Mercer, Caitlin Stevens-Kelly, Carla Harris, Dave Horgan, and Krista Sutton

I explained the idea to my husband…

I would get up in the morning with him and get the children ready to go to the babysitter. He would then drive them to her house and proceed to his job at the Regional Hospital. I would then leave our house, walk to the hospital, pick up the car, drive to the babysitter’s, pick up the children, do Mommy and Munchkin stuff for the rest of the day and then pick him up after his shift.

Easy Peasy!

My husband looked at me, shrugged his shoulders and said “Okay……” Did I mention that he’s a pretty smart man? He says ‘okay’ a great deal.

So up we get the next day and after everyone leaves, I prep for my little trek. Aside from the one moment when I was sorely tempted to stop at the fire station on Manchester Ave to request a drive TO the hospital, I made it to the car relatively unscathed. I was tired but happy. I decided to do it again on the other days the children were with the babysitter.

This trend continued for a few weeks until the brilliant thought popped into my head of “I wonder if I could run some of this to get there faster?” I made it approximately 300 meters before the wheezing caused me to revert to walking. Wheezing or not, I would not be deterred. The next time out, I went 400 meters before having to walk, and once I managed to get my breathing under control, I would start running again. I kept this pattern up for a few weeks until I was up to 8k without stopping.

It wasn’t fast but I was actually running and enjoying it, two words I never thought would go together in my world.

You can register for the 2015 Emera Marathon by the Sea here.

My husband was witnessing this transformation and one day nonchalantly said, “I think you should run the half at Marathon by the Sea this year.” My response to his statement was less than favourable and to paraphrase, I replied, “Are you NUTS??? There is no way on earth I could do that!!!”

He turned, looked at me and said “You know a half marathon is 21.1 kilometers, right? You do know that you have been running/walking 21 kilometers at least three times a week to get the car, right?”

Oh, did I mention that it is exactly 21K from our driveway to the upper parking lot of the Regional Hospital and I walked that distance on the very first day of this endeavor? Yeah, I may not be the brightest bulb in the package but I will definitely burn the longest out of the lot. LOL

I reiterated my original “You are nuts” rebuttal to which he then said “Yeah. You’re right. I doubt you could do that at the race.”

“Um… Excuse me??? Did you just say you didn’t think I could do something? Are you serious? Are you challenging me to do a half marathon? OH… it is ON Mister!”

I told him to get on that computer and sign me up.  I’ll show you! I’m going to do my first official half marathon and you’ll see! (Yup, I got played like a fiddle….)

Check out the results from 2014

I was terrified as I stood in the crowd of people on that foggy Sunday morning waiting for the gun to go off but I started and finished the race with a smile on my face. I ran 2hrs 17 min for my first official half and was pretty happy. What an experience! I now understood why those runners always looked so elated all those years ago.  This was FUN!

Between 2003 and 2005, I did several smaller races and a few more half marathons but was looking for something more, I just didn’t know what that something was until a fateful drive down Rothesay Avenue in October of 2005.

It was a miserable day. The rain was torrential and bitterly cold. It was as we made our way down the avenue that I saw them. There were people clad in garbage bags trying to keep somewhat dry as they ran through ankle-high puddles, making their way down the avenue.

I was in shock. What the heck was going on? My husband said “Oh yeah, I heard they are running the Challenge today. This must be it.”

The Challenge? What is the Challenge? Whatever it was, I like the sound of it!

It was the KV Challenge. A point-to-point marathon put on by John Kelly and sponsored by Coast Tire. Oh… I really like the sound of that! A marathon specific point-to-point race? Excellent! I turned to my husband and said “I want to do that!” His response was “Okay…..”

2006 was my marathon debut at the KV Challenge. I have run a few other marathon venues since then but John Kelly’s original KVC will always be my favourite. I did the KVC full three more times and the half marathon distance once between 2007 and 2010 and I have to say if John Kelly ever decided to put on another point-to-point marathon specific race, I will be among the first to sign up.  I am so happy to have made the KV Challenge my first marathon and will forever cherish those memories.

It was after the 2008 KV marathon (with a PR of 4:07 that I have yet to improve upon lol) that I decided I wanted to do something more. I had met some wonderful people during my running escapades and learned of a little race held each January in Walt Disney World called the Goofy Challenge. Hmm… a Challenge, you say? I love me a challenge!

And so it began… In January of 2009, I made my way to Florida with my family in tow to start yet another running journey.

The premise of these races is to get up as early as humanly possible, jump on a bus that takes you to the Epcot parking lot where you stand around with 20,000 of your closest running friends until you walk almost a mile to your corral where you get to wait again until the gun goes off at 5:30am. You then run through the Disney parks and along the Orlando highways for 21.1K, return to Epcot for an epic finish, go eat and try to sleep so you can repeat the same thing the next day, except there is an additional 21.1K tacked onto the original 21.1.

Yup, 63.3K in two days. I crossed the finish line after the marathon and swore I’d never do that foolishness again.

Well, we have all heard that story before, haven’t we? Runners are notorious for repeatedly lying to themselves. I took on the Goofy Challenge two more times, as well as the Disney Coast to Coast Challenge  and just for fun and giggles, threw in a 50K Ultra and sprint triathlon (I don’t swim so let your imagination soar with that one) for good measure.

I was running out of Challenges and with the ever-changing responsibilities my job offered, I was finding it difficult to remain motivated to do much of anything.  While I wasn’t able to partake in races, I decided to do the next best thing and put my hand up to volunteer at the events. It was my chance to pay it forward (and back) to all those who had been there for me during my races. I highly, HIGHLY recommend every runner, walker and triathlete out there volunteer for at least one event. It completely changes your outlook on races.

It was while I was volunteering that I heard about it… Disney was introducing a new Challenge. Oh why, oh why do they keep using the word ‘Challenge’ in these races? I’m drawn to that word like a moth to an inferno.

It’s called the Dopey Challenge. Dopey, you say? Well I like the sound of that and I happen to know one or two individuals who might fit the bill as Dopey accomplices. So in April of 2013, I started my campaign to convince two extremely good friends to come along on a new and exciting adventure. It didn’t take much convincing as these two are as crazy, if not more so, than I am.

In January of 2014, because all the flights out of Saint John and Fredericton were cancelled due to the weather, Marta Kelly, Brenda Guitard and I rented a car and drove to Montreal in a raging snowstorm. (FYI – if you’ve ever had the urge to drive on a Quebec highway during a snow squall at 3am with your hazards on as transport trucks zoom by, don’t. They call rescue helicopters out to check on you but that’s another story…). Then, we caught a flight to Orlando so we could get up at 3am each day for four days and run a total of 78.3 kilometers.

These two women are the best friends a girl could ever ask for and that adventure will be with me until the day I leave this earth!

Now flash forward to April of 2014. Marta and Brenda may have learned from our first Dopey experience but like I mentioned earlier, (you know…. Not the brightest bulb but the longest lasting, etc.) I didn’t.

My fingers got ahead of my brain and I ended up once again registering for the Dopey Challenge. Problem was this time the race sold out in a matter of hours and I didn’t have any friends going with me. How the heck was I supposed to do 48.6 miles by myself? Why do I do these things? Sigh….

Check out the photo gallery from last year

Well, this past January saw me complete my second Dopey Challenge. It wasn’t pretty. The marathon was exceptionally hard because of the weather (freezing cold at the start then scorching sun followed by torrential rain then sun then rain again…. typical Florida weather) and the fact I hadn’t been able to put in the amount of miles I should have in preparation for the race made the going tough, but I did finish. My goal for that Sunday’s Marathon was to make it to Animal Kingdom’s Expedition Everest (just before mile 13) in time to ride the roller coaster and I did. Scratch ‘Ride rollercoaster during a marathon’ off the bucket list!

I returned home to our wonderful winter and thought ‘Well, that’s that. No more challenges. I’m done!’ and then I saw the new venue for 2015 Marathon by the Sea. Why oh why did they have to put ‘Challenge’ in the title? Yup, I’m going to try it again…. 5K Friday, 5K Saturday and the full marathon on Sunday so as to become one of the first Port City Challenge Finishers. Now, considering how my year has been going as of January and while battling some persistent and stubborn injuries, I may dial the full down to the half but still, I’m going to be a Challenge finisher!

Well then… so I guess that’s why I run. I run because I can. I run because I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to do so. I run to make friends, see places, go on adventures and take in everything life has to offer. I run so my body knows I appreciate the gift I’ve been given in being able to put one foot in front of the other as many are not afforded that luxury. I run so as to set the example for my children that you don’t have to be the fastest at the start line, you just need to have the will to finish and be happy doing it. I run for the time on the course, not the time on the clock.

For as long as my body and mind permits, I will continue to move forward with the mantra of left foot, right foot, repeat and above all else, I will strive to always Run Happy 🙂


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