Sherilyn Johnson A Driving Force Behind Track Club Success

She Recruits Hundreds Of Volunteers For CTC Events

Wednesday, April 23, 2014 - by John Hunt

Sherilyn Johnson probably prefers doing things behind the scenes where she doesn't have to be seen or heard.

Such is the life of one of the hardest working members of the Chattanooga Track Club.

Johnson is a Senior Program Analyst for Shaw Industries by day and has been in that position for almost 19 years.

And she continues to run about 20 miles a week when time allows, but she's a driving force behind the track club's success as she's been directly involved with the club's three signature events for several years.

She served as the president of the CTC in 2010, but she and Bill Brock were co-race directors for the Waterfront Triathlon for five years beginning in 2007.  She's no longer officially connected to the triathlon, but she became the race director for the Scenic City Half-Marathon in February and she continues as the co-race director with Jenni Berz for the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon.

Sherilyn does a lot of things really well, but her claim to fame just might be her way of soliciting volunteers for these events.  That may be the toughest job of all in the local club that currently has almost a thousand members.

Think about it for a minute.

The triathlon has a swim that begins at the rowing barge next to Scrappy Moore Field while the bike ride goes almost to Highway 153 before returning to town.  That's followed by a 10K run out and back along the Riverwalk.  There are water stops all along the way (except in the Tennessee River) and it takes many more individuals who serve as sentries to make sure the participants follow the right path without getting lost.

It's one of those jobs that require hundreds and hundreds of personal emails and phone calls as she makes sure that all of the bases are covered and all the details are taken care of.

"Bill and I did the Waterfront Triathlon for five years, but I picked up Scenic City this year.  And I'm still co-directors with Jenni at Chickamauga," Sherilyn said late Wednesday afternoon while relaxing at Starbucks in Brainerd.

"You can't start too soon and you can't wait too late when contacting people about volunteering.  These events require a lot of individuals.  The month before Waterfront, I was sending emails out from the time I got home until I went to bed five nights a week," she continued, talking about how important it is to coordinate the timing of such communication.

"My volunteer base has gotten bigger through the years.  You have to have great support from the track club and I've been blessed with that, but things always seem to work out just right and I have to constantly remind myself of that fact.  It's like putting all the pieces together for a big puzzle and making sure they all work together," the 51-year-old wife to Steve smiled.

Sherilyn graduated from Cherokee County High School in Centre, Alabama before going to Freed-Hardeman in Henderson, Tennessee to earn her first degree.  She followed that with an MBA from UTC with a focus on Finance.

She worked at Blue Cross for a few years before ending up in Dalton at Shaw where she's been for the last 19 years.

Her running career began in middle school, but she was more interested in tennis, so she spent more time on the court than on the road.

Her father died unexpectedly in 1987 at the age of 52 from a massive heart attack.  That's when she got serious about exercising and taking better care of her body physically.

"I run just to stay healthy, but my younger brother talked me into entering my first race, which was the Ruritan 5K in Soddy Daisy.  I don't have any idea what my time was, but I remember it was foggy.  I just kept running after that," she recalled that first serious attempt back in the mid 80s.

Fast forward almost three decades and she's still hard at it.

Disney World started an event in 2005 called the Goofy Challenge, which included doing a half-marathon on Saturday with a full marathon the next day.  She was there and finished them without a problem.

And just this past January, she was part of another first-time event called the Dopey Challenge, which included a 5K on Thursday, 10K on Friday, Half-Marathon on Saturday and full 26.2-mile marathon on Sunday.

Again, she completed this second one as well, but it was much more difficult as she had some unexpected medical issues to deal with.

"I had a colonoscopy when I was 50 and they detected something in my colon.  I went into surgery on November 12, 2013 where they removed 12 inches of my colon in addition to my appendix.  That was two months before the Dopey Challenge.

"I was in the hospital for nine days and wasn't able to train much, but somehow I struggled through it.  I was on a plan where I ran for three minutes and walked for one.  There was a seven-hour time limit for the marathon and I passed the halfway point in 3:20.

"I knew I was going to be cutting it close, so I forced myself to run the last three miles and finished with about eight minutes to spare," she recalled the tough test in January.

Sherilyn also got involved in race timing back in 2009 when the procedure for local events went to the next level.  She has since added being the lead timer for Team Magic to her list of things to do.  Team Magic is the professional organization out of Birmingham that directs the Waterfront Triathlon in addition to eight other multi-sport events in the Southeast.

"I like doing both," she said when asked which she prefers.

"I still run about 20 miles a week, but I'm usually volunteering at races.  I've learned a lot and have met a whole lot of nice people, but all of these events take up most of my time as I go from one race to the next," she added.

Sherilyn also likes to travel, including a cruise she took recently with her mother Nancy Howard and her two brothers, Gary and Bill.  She and her husband Steve will celebrate their 25th anniversary in August.  That cruise took them to such places as Denmark, Sweden, Russia and Amsterdam, but Steve stayed behind.

"Steve takes care of the house as we have two dogs and three cats, but he also volunteers a lot.  I couldn't do what I do without him," Sherilyn said in a serious tone.

In addition to everything else, Sherilyn is also the Tennessee state representative for the Road Runners Club of America, so she'll be joining a few others from the CTC next weekend for the national convention in Spokane, Washington.

Steve and Sherilyn have been in Chattanooga since 1985 and she has lots of other interests, but "it seems like all involve the track club," she nodded.

Sherilyn is a veteran of 25 marathons, but has no immediate plans for her next.  She did her first one at Chickamauga in 1995 where she finished in 4:04, which is still her personal best to this date.

"I'm hoping to run Boston one day, but I have to run four hours to qualify, so I have some work to do," she concluded.

The Chattanooga Track Club has been in the business of putting on quality running events for a long time and they're better than ever at what they do.

There's a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to make sure everything unfolds without a hitch and Sherilyn Johnson is one of those who makes things click.

And that's the way she likes it.

(This is the 10th in a series of features on local runners, including members of the Chattanooga Track Club.  If you have a suggestion of someone who might be worthy of such a story, email John Hunt at nomarathonmoose@Comcast.net)


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