Thursday October 19, 2017
Jamie Sheahan’s medal features a pineapple, a symbol that often represents hospitality and friendship. The medal might also have featured a symbol of determination, strength, and endurance, for Sheahan won the medal when she claimed the top female marathoner spot at the 2017 Amica Newport Marathon. Held October 8, Sheahan, along with 3,000 finishers from across the country and around the globe, battled wind gusts of up to 20 knots and sideways rain on a humid day, running 26.2 miles through the streets of Newport and Middletown, Rhode Island. She crossed the finish line at 3:27:20, besting a field of 389 women.
“I was just going to have a good time and honestly had no expectation that I would place. I felt good so I was able to push the pace a little and then near the end, when I realized I wasn’t too far behind some of the lead females, I decided to give it everything I had to finish strong,” says Sheahan, who passed the lead female less than a mile from the finish. “From there I was just trying to push as hard as I could to make sure she didn’t pass me. I don’t think it really hit me that I was going to win until I was running towards the finish and saw the race officials put the tape out for me to run through.”
The athlete earns her marathon win through practicing what she preaches. Sheahan is the director of nutritional counseling at The Edge Sports and Fitness, as well as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor. In addition, she is an adjunct professor of sports nutrition at the University of Vermont.
An athlete her entire life, the 2006 South Burlington High School graduate received 13 varsity letters in field hockey, ice hockey, tennis, and golf. Sheahan says competing at the high school level taught her discipline. “Time management was key and those lessons have been critical in training for marathons. Training takes a lot of time and dedication so it can be challenging to juggle that with work and a social life.”
Sheahan’s training is non-stop. She runs three to four days a week along with strength and cross training. “I set a goal in May of 2016 to run at least one marathon a month for six months. That extended to a year and then, when I hit the year mark, I decided to just keep going. That means I can’t follow a traditional training plan, so I have had to learn to listen to my body to stay injury-free.” When she gets the chance, Sheahan says she runs with friends. “It’s always a struggle to find that work-life balance, but I make it a priority to get my training in because I know it makes me more productive at work and just a happier and healthier person overall,” playfully adding, “Trust me, I’m not a pleasant person to be around when I can’t run.”
But running wasn’t always in Sheahan’s wheelhouse. “I always hated running. It had always been something I had to do as part of whatever sport I was playing and felt more like a punishment than anything. Once I was able to just run for myself, outside of sports, I came to love it.” She ran her first marathon at Walt Disney World at the age of 24, and remembers, “Crossing the finish line was surreal. I had been so nervous, not sure if I would even be able to finish. I’m not going to lie, I was in a lot of pain, but the thrill of finishing made the pain all worth it.”
When asked why she continues to run, she equates her experience to meditation. “I never listen to music when I run so I take that time to just zone out and work through whatever stress might be going on in my day.” Then, she adds, there is the draw of the running community, saying, “Whenever I go to a race I get to meet so many amazing people who all share the same passion so there’s that instant connection.” She has now run over 20 marathons and three ultramarathons.
Just as important as training to her success, if not more so, is Sheahan’s commitment to nutrition. “I attribute my ability to continuously run marathons with such frequency to an anti-inflammatory diet.” Sheahan received her master’s degree in dietetics in 2013 and is currently a Registered Dietician (RD), which she explains is “a more regulated term than a nutritionist because it requires earning a degree from a university accredited by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as well as the completion of an internship program.” In addition, she must continue her education to maintain credentials.
Sheahan, who was recruited by Connecticut College out of high school to play field hockey, reports she did not give her diet much thought in her collegiate days. After taking a course on nutrition, she came to see how much one’s diet affected one’s health on and off the field. “From there, I was hooked and started focusing not just on my training for field hockey and squash, but on my diet as well and noticed a huge difference in my performance.”
Now Sheahan helps others have the same realization, noting her favorite part of her work is seeing her clients reach their goals. “Whether that’s losing weight or completing their first half-marathon, it’s always inspiring to witness others’ success and be a part of it.” In order to do this, Sheahan faces common misconceptions, “That eating healthy means eating boring or unappealing food and that exercise isn’t fun.” So when it comes to giving advice, Sheahan emphasizes what she, herself, has learned, “No change is too small and it’s important to focus on sustainable lifestyle changes instead of quick-fix diets or exercise regimens.”
A self-actualizing champion of goals, Sheahan has a powerful life philosophy, “Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t.” She believes that everyone can be an athlete adding, “I love the quote, ‘Whether it’s a 15-minute mile or a seven-minute mile, it’s still a mile.’ It can be intimidating to get into a sport like running if you don’t identify as an ‘athlete’ or a ‘runner,’ but it should be about everyone’s individual journey and overcoming one’s own unique challenges.”
For Sheahan, as expected, another marathon challenge lies ahead. And it is a meaningful one, running the New York City Marathon November 5 as part of the nonprofit organization Project Purple. “I’m running it for my friend, Paul Andrew, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year.” Her goal is to raise $20,000 for Project Purple and no one should be surprised to hear her say, “I’m almost there.”
SOURCE :Carole Vasta Folley, The Other Paper