Shannah Hayley, the director of communications and community outreach for the City of Plano, is a self-described ‘non-athlete’ who grew up in a family that paid little attention to health and fitness. However, in the past decade she has accomplished eleven times something that most people don’t even do once in their lives–run a full marathon. Hayley is now helping other ‘non-athletes’ accomplish their running goals, whatever they may be.
Wanting to prevent health problems faced by others in her family, Hayley exercised regularly for years, whether walking, rowing or lifting weights. Running, however, was something she had always thought was for ‘really fit’ people so she never made it a part of her regimen. Eventually, inspired by her avid-runner husband, Hayley warmed to the idea and in 2008 decided to give it a try herself. “At first, I didn’t really have grand goals…I just wanted to spend time with my husband doing something he loved, and to see if I could accomplish something small, like run a 5K,” said Hayley.
To help her learn how to run, Hayley embraced the Galloway Method. This Run-Walk-Run interval training helps runners slowly and safely build their conditioning so that they don’t get discouraged or injured while still meeting their racing goals. “When I first started, I probably couldn’t even run much more than 20 seconds at a time, but slowly I built endurance, gained more confidence and kept increasing my distances,” said Hayley.
In late 2008, she decided to try her first 5K. Inspired by completing that initial race, Hayley continued training and pushed through longer and longer distances. By 2011, she felt ready to attempt her first marathon. “Entering the Big D Marathon for the first time I didn’t really know what to expect and was focused primarily on simply finishing the race,” added Hayley. “When I completed the course I felt like I had conquered a lot of self doubt and insecurity and was ready for more!”
In the last seven years, Hayley has gone on to complete ten more marathons, running the Dallas Marathon a total of four times as well as others in Houston, San Antonio, New York, and her all-time favorite, the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C.
While she isn’t obsessive about her training routine, maintaining a regular schedule is key for Hayley. At least two mornings a week she wakes by 4:30 A.M. and is out the door by 4:55 for a 3-4 mile run. Other mornings she might head to the gym for some resistance training. On the weekends, she goes for longer runs, typically 6 to 11 miles.
Hayley and her husband have also begun giving back to the sport by leading a half and full marathon-training group and helping other runners – novice and Boston-qualifiers – through the same Galloway program she herself first used more than seven years ago. “My husband will generally work with the advanced runners while I like to support those who move a little slower or are new,” said Hayley. “Getting to know these people and help them realize they too can do more than they ever thought possible is really satisfying.”
Hayley’s current ‘goal’ might surprise you. “Every runner seeks a new best time or distance. While I have some specific milestones I would eventually like to accomplish, this year I am really ‘running without goals’ so I can focus on just being in the moment, enjoying the outdoors, and building relationships with others. Being task focused can lead me to negative self-talk, so forgoing goals this year has given me a whole new appreciation for the sport. That can be difficult for a Type A person like me, but it really takes the pressure off and helps this ‘non-athlete’ get back to the simple joys I experienced when I first started running.”