We met Janet Sherman at the ZOOMA women’s race in Colorado Springs last July. This 50-year-old mom of two grown sons blazed that hilly, hot 10K in 50:54 to be the top Masters finisher and the fifth overall. We love how this mama got her start in running. Follow her adventures (and advice) on Run Jan Run and on Twitter.
“But I’m not a runner,” I protested as they pinned the number to the front of my shirt and I hurriedly signed the waiver form. The reason I ran that day made far more sense to my co-workers than it did to me. “Someone has to represent the aerobics instructors," one of them told me, "You have running shoes on, and you have the longest legs.”
The ear-splitting “WAAAAAAAAA!” of the air horn told my feet to start moving, and I tried my best to follow the pack of sprinting bodies in front of me. Somewhere during the first mile I lost sight of all but one person. Having no idea how far a 5K was, or if the searing pain in my legs was normal, I just kept going. When I saw the 2-mile sign, I glanced over my shoulder and didn’t see anyone. I was pretty sure the guy in front of me was leading us in the wrong direction and I would finish dead last. He would finish second-to-dead last. Finally, I saw the finish line. At least we weren’t lost. As I ran across the black chalk line I heard someone call out a time and my name as the first female finisher. My legs and lungs were on fire. This was so much harder than teaching step aerobics, but it didn’t matter. I finished and I wasn’t last. A spark lit inside me that day, and it’s been burning for 15 years.
That day, I ran to represent. The reasons I run have changed many times throughout the years, and each day’s run takes on its own purpose. Some days I run away from things--the nose-mining 2nd graders I’m responsible for educating; the dementia that’s taken my dad’s mind from him and my dad from me; the fact that my sons are almost grown and my role as a mom is changing. I run from mistakes I’ve made that cannot be changed and from the fear of growing old and of not growing old.
Most days I run toward things--a new PR, an age-group win (because I still love to bring home the race bling), the hill repeats that will chisel my glutes into those elusive buns of steel. I run toward watching my children grow into successful adults, and toward watching myself get better and older, but never old. I run toward everything that lies ahead.
Running is my passion, my sanity, and my challenge. It makes me dig deeper and reach farther than I thought possible. Lacing up my Nikes and toeing the starting line of a race still gives me a roller-coaster-ride feeling in my stomach, but I know, in the end, the clock will judge my effort fairly and objectively. Running isn’t what I do, it’s what I am. I am a runner.