Run for the thrill

Staff member Joseph Sheeran runs long distance around the world

Courtesy of Joseph Sheeran

Courtesy of Joseph Sheeran

Kyvon Henry, Staff Reporter

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You might see Joseph Sheeran at the registrar’s office with degree checkout, or you might have taken a course by his wife, Lori, in the anthropology department.

He might be humble, but he has outstanding accomplishments, including qualifying for 1980 and 1984 U.S.
Olympic marathon trials.

Born in Livorno, Italy, Sheeran considers home to be Grayslake, Illinois, where he attended high school and college. Sheeran started running marathons from 1976 to 1986. His last marathon was in Eugene, Oregon, in 2012. He had a time of 2:46.

In 1976, he finished third place with the timestamp 2:15 in his first-ever marathon. His fastest time was 2:15 at the Dallas White Rock marathon in 1982, where he took second place.

Sheeran and his wife moved from California in 2003 for Lori’s position in the anthropology department at CWU.

Living for the thrill, Sheeran raced against legendary runners such as Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, Rod Dixon and Greg Meyer.

The “ultimate goal is just to test your limits no matter what the race is and compete with peers that you respect and envy,” Sheeran said. “Making the U.S. Olympic trials was nice to achieve and running the Boston marathon would be awesome. Still haven’t done that.”

Sheeran said the energy around a race gives a runner that extra push to exceed their best time.

“Being patient and sticking to race plan during the first half of the race,” 13 miles, is important, Sheeran said. “The cheering crowds, adrenaline and excitement of an event can ruin a race by making you go out too fast and dehydrate too quickly.”

His whole track career started off by a dare from a friend.

“I got addicted to it right away. Frank Shorter had just won the Olympic 1972 marathon in Munich and Steve Prefontaine was very popular in the 5,000
meters,” fourth at Munich, Sheeran said.

The running boom began in 1972.

“As a vegan, I wanted to show that you don’t need to eat meat to perform well in sports,” Sheeran said. I was the first and only runner at my high school to qualify for the state cross country championships.”

Even during his athletics season, Sheeran wanted to run even more.

“College buddy on the Eastern Illinois (EIU) cross country team heard about a goofy Swedish marathon in upper Wisconsin and invited me to run it with him,” Sheeran said. “It was a six-hour drive but worth it. Got third place in my first marathon. College coach was mad I did it since it occurred in the middle of cross-country season.”

With many races under his belt, the key to his success in training is simulating the race.

“Depending on how hilly, what
altitude, climate, or how crowded the field is you tailor your training to that,” Sheeran said. “My longest run in prep was 20 miles on weekends. Lots of interval workouts at race pace or a little faster. Would average 110-120 miles a week in my 20’s. Now I only run 85 miles a week.”

Not everything goes smoothly; the road to success always has its down falls. Due to a severe ankle sprain, Sheeran could not run for 20 years, from 1986 to 2006.
Later he fractured his foot in a cross-country race in 2012, missing out on six months  of running.

Knee and ankle injuries in college slowed down the second half of his college career. As a sophomore at EIU, he ran 29:20 in the 10k, 14:01 in the 5k, and 29:40 in cross country 10K at the NCAA Division I National Championships, earning All-American honors.

His fractured foot couldn’t come at a worse time—he had just won three
national championships in one race at the USATF Club XC Nationals Seattle.

“I was at top of my game and hoping to repeat, but instead I was on crutches for three months,” Sheeran said. “Wasn’t sure if I would ever compete again after that bone fracture due to its location in fifth metatarsal but eventually regained function after skipping surgery to fix it.”

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