When Sherlyn Nail, 64, decided to start walking, it changed her life. She went from walking to jogging to running and recently completed her first half marathon. Now she’s competing to be on the cover of Runner’s World magazine.
“The more I thought about it, and was encouraged by other people, I thought ‘why not?’” Nail said. “If it encourages somebody else to make a change …”
Nail, a writing services manager at State Fair Community College, read a quote by C.S. Lewis taped to her file cabinet: “You’re never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”
Nail said she always knew she needed to eat healthy and exercise, but it wasn’t until October 2014 that she began to work toward that goal. She joined the Weight Watchers at Work program at SFCC and began to walk every day.
“I signed up for it and not only do they promote good eating habits, but also some activity,” she noted. “So I started walking. I’d get up and walk 30 minutes every morning.”
She added that after walking for a while, she lost weight and felt good so she decided to step-it-up a bit. She began to jog.
“It was one more challenge,” she said. “The next thing I knew, instead of walking for 30 minutes I was actually running for 30 minutes.”
Her son-in-law, David Meyer, noticed she was running each day and mentioned it to Nail’s daughter, Sarah. At that point, Nail was running three miles each morning. Sarah and David are dedicated runners and Sarah invited her mother to participate in a half marathon.
“She said ‘why don’t we run a half marathon together?’” Nail said. “”My mind couldn’t quite grasp it. I said ‘I’d run too slow for you,’ and she said ‘no mom you wouldn’t. We would do it together.’”
The women decided on a spring run, St. Jude Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in Nashville, and they began to train for the event by going on runs five days a week. On the weekend they would go on “long runs.”
“Long runs, you usually run five days a week, you have two days you rest,” Nail said. “During the week you might run three miles, four miles, and up to five miles during the week, but on the weekend you start adding. You do some long miles. We started long mileing together about seven miles.”
Nail and her daughter ran on the Katy Trail and kept adding miles until they reached 12 miles at a time.
“The day that we did 10 miles, I thought, ‘OK, I can do this,’” she noted.
On April 30, they participated in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon with 18,087 other runners. Nail came in 34th out of 227 women in her age division, with a time of two hours and 29 minutes.
“That’s when I felt like ‘I’m a runner,’” she noted. “It was several weeks later, sometime in May, I got an email from Sarah and she said ‘David thinks you should enter this.’ It was a cover contest for Runner’s World magazine.”
Nail looked at the message and laughed.
“I said ‘are you kidding me?’” she said. “(Sarah) said ‘it’s inspirational at your age that you set a goal for yourself to do this. We just think it’s a great accomplishment. We think it’s a great story for you to tell, to share.’”
Nail mentioned the contest to her co-workers and they encouraged her also. She decided to enter and wrote a required 200-word essay on her “break-through moment.”
“I thought, that’s not hard for me to identify,” Nail said. “My break-through moment was when I ran my first half marathon.”
She added that if the opportunity is presented she will run another half marathon.
“I didn’t even have to think about it, it’s such a personal accomplishment,” she said. “It was just a whole lot of fun, to do that with 18,000 other people. I guess, because of the crowd support, because of all the energy of the people that were there, it just didn’t seem hard to do.”
Nail’s co-worker, Cheryl Landers, took photos of her on the Katy Trail and Nail entered two in the cover contest. The cover search is separated into six phases. The first phase, from May 2 to July 20, is the entry and voting period.
“It’s not all based on how many votes you get,” Nail said. “That’s a part of it. It’s based on what you’ve written, the requirements are to be able to run at least five miles a week. I usually average between 15 and 20 miles.”
In phase two, from July 20-25, judges will chose 100 semi-finalists. During the the third phase, July 20 to Aug. 15, online readers may vote for their favorite semi-finalist. The fourth phase, Aug. 16-19, judges interview “selected” semi-finalists and 10 finalists will be chosen.
In phase five the judges interview “all or some”of the contestants. On Nov. 4, in phase six, a male and female constant will be announced on live television.
Since changing her diet and starting a exercise regimen, Nail has lost 77 pounds. She said she never imagined she would be a runner or vying for a magazine cover.
“I’m short, I’m stocky, I don’t look like my image of what a runner is,” she said. “I know people my age who do run, but they started in high school or college.
She added that people often get into a “mindset” as they age and believe they have to slow down.
“I think that’s a myth that we need to dispel,” Nail noted. “I have always been inspired by people who set a new goal late in life … age is just a number. We shouldn’t let that hold us back from doing something whether it’s something physical or mental.”
She plans to run again soon and added that the support has been great. Nail isn’t ruling out running a full marathon either.
“It’s just a gift to be able to walk, and it’s icing on the cake to run,” she noted.
Nail is Runner’s World Cover Search contestant No. 432. As of Friday, she had received 312 votes. People may vote for her until July 20 at coversearch.runnersworld.com.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.