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She’s A Highly Successful Runner Who Fuels On Candy

The unconventional and unapologetic elite masters runner Sheri Piers on running the NYC Marathon, (lack of) nutrition and racing over 40.

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Sheri with longtime running parter Kristin Barry before Boston 2012.

“I have a routine that has worked for me over the past 12 years and I believe ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’!”

That one quote sums up running legend Sheri Piers and why so much of her training and nutrition, although unconventional by today’s standards, has brought her so much success over the years.

We think you will agree that nothing is “broke” on Piers.

Piers is a native of Maine, mom of three, and full-time medical director, who has had hundreds of articles written about her. Her resume highlights include competing in the Olympic trials three times, finishing the Boston Marathon as the top American in 2012, top finishes at the USA National Masters Championships (yep, she’s over 40) in 2011 and 2012 where she ran a PR of 2:36:59 and first place masters finishes at Beach to Beacon (10K) in 2012 (34:23) and the PeachTree Road Race in 2012 (34:38).

With a resume like that, you probably wouldn’t expect her daily diet to include orange Sunkist soda and candy.

“I tend to have a big sweet tooth and candy such as Skittles, gummy bears, Necco Wafers and Starburst are consumed on a daily basis,” Piers says nonchalantly, “for me it works and the restriction of foods is not enjoyable. Diet Sunkist is what I consider my ‘coffee.’ I have tried to enjoy coffee as most runners do, but I just don’t like it!”

Although we cannot relate to the coffee thing, we can totally understand restriction “not being enjoyable” and that it is definitely unsustainable. However, for most runners of Piers’s caliber, this diet would not be able to produce the results she has attained. It’s an anomaly. Kind of like Piers herself.

Another thing she doesn’t restrict? Running! She does zero cross training (nada, zilch, nothing) and rarely takes a day off. She attributes her longevity of waking up early (as in 4:30 a.m.) and getting out there to run every single day, to her running partner of more than 30 years, Kristin Barry:

“For me there is no Sheri Piers without Kristin Barry and vice versa,” Piers said with a huge grin, “she has changed my life and countless ways! [The best lesson] she has taught me is how to be happy for another person’s successes. Running with her and seeing her succeed in a race or races makes me just as happy as if I would have won the race!”

For Piers, there have been so many successes and only a few regrets. When I asked her what she wishes she had done differently, she shared this wisdom, which all runners can instantly learn from.

“The one thing I wish I didn’t worry about so much was always having a mileage target for every week and every day of every week,” she recalled, “filling my log with lots of miles…it’s just a number and I have obsessed over it FOR YEARS!”

The only other thing she would like to get a “do-over” on? This:

“I’m not really one that looks back but I wish I had met Kristin [Barry] when I was younger because we still have goals that we had set for ourselves that we never accomplished and obviously those days are long gone!”

Her younger days and competition in the open field may be behind her, but it’s her mental game she has had to work on the most after turning 44 this past year.

“The best part of racing at age 40 is that a 40-year-old can still compete and be highly competitive with people of our own age,” she shared with limited joy. “The worst part about it for me is that, as I am very well aware of my age as a number, it is very difficult to not want to be competitive in the open age division! My mind feels as though I can compete with the young girls but my body says otherwise!”

Sheri and the author at the Rise.Run.Retreat this October.
Sheri and the author at the Rise.Run.Retreat this October.

Still, that body which is fueled by sugar and has no off days, has been injury free for countless marathons, including New York City in 2010. Although Piers doesn’t remember her finishing time (it was 2:34:17), she does remember it being windy and hilly. Here is her advice to anyone tackling the 5 boroughs this year?

“Be prepared for potential cold, windy conditions,” she warns, “In 2010 it was very windy and the footing in certain areas is not the best so be mindful of the roads and footing. Also, the last 3-4 miles are somewhat challenging with the hills.”

So, what does 2017 and beyond look like for this aging athlete? Like everything else in Piers’ life, she lays out her race calendar in the way it has always worked for her, by feel.

“2017 will include a couple of marathons, one being Boston but not quite sure about a fall marathon yet,” she laughs, “although I will not compete in the 2020 marathon trials, I would love to be able to hit the time standard one last time just for my piece of mind!”

We’re pretty sure she can do anything she sets her mind and body to, as long as she doesn’t change a thing!