Words by Terrell Manasco | Image by Blakeney Clouse
Just before sunrise on a chilly Saturday morning, Shannon Day throws back the covers and wipes the sleep from her eyes. As her husband Scott and five children continue their blissful sojourn in the Land of Nod, she silently pulls on a pair of black pants, shirt, and Nike sneakers. Jamming a ball cap on her head, she threads her ponytail through the back.
Ten minutes later she is in the car, slowly cruising down Third Avenue. She nudges the car into a parking spot, gets out, and pauses to stretch. It’s just after six a.m. and downtown is eerily quiet, except for the rumble of a distant train passing through. Pausing to gulp in a fresh lungful of frigid morning air, Shannon exhales, watching her warm breath-fog rise and dissipate. As the first orange-yellow blades of sunlight slice through the morning clouds, she leans slightly forward, the brisk wind on her cheeks, and her sneakers slowly break into a rhythmic trot on the asphalt street. Today she will cover around 12 miles to prepare for an upcoming event, yet it is much more than the prospect of winning a marathon that rouses her from sleep to go out into the cold at this hour of the day.
To Shannon, running is a safety valve.
“Running has always been a release,” she says.
As the staff dietician at DaVita Clinic in Jasper, Shannon is well versed in the benefits of healthy diet and exercise. “I think my background in food nutrition and being a dietician has played into what I do,” she says.
In high school, running had been an alternative to softball. As an adult, Shannon discovered that not only did she enjoy running, but it also helped to reduce stress. “That has always been an outlet,” she says. “You can get out and leave that, whereas if you didn’t have a release, I can see how people get truly depressed.”
After Brooklyn (4) and Easton (2) were born, Shannon began to consider running in marathons. “I’ve always done 5Ks and 10Ks,” she says. “My goal was to do a half [marathon]. I ran my first half in April 2016 in Nashville. That’s 13.1 miles. Then I did Tallulah and I did my first full marathon last December in Memphis for St Jude’s. My next goal is a 50K run (31 miles) in Appalachicola in October.”
While the prospect of reaching five or ten miles may seem daunting, Shannon says the secret to getting over that hump is simply doing it once or twice. “Once you run thirteen miles and you push past that, thirteen miles isn’t a big deal,” she says. “Once you start, it’s just something you start doing. You want to do it on a Saturday morning. It’s like it’s addictive. I really enjoy long runs. There’s just something about getting out on the road, you can clear your head. When everything else in your world is shaken up, you can just leave that and go out on the road and just run.”
As an added bonus, Shannon says a good run always helps boost her mood. “Nobody likes me in the mornings because I’m a little too cheerful,” she laughs. “Scott says I’m the only person who can run twenty-six miles and come back smiling. It’s almost like a medicine. It releases endorphins into your brain and just makes you a happier person. I can be at my wit’s end and frazzled and just tell Scott, ‘If you’ll just let me go run out on the road for thirty minutes, I will be a better person when I come home.’”
In addition to being DaVita’s staff dietician, (this year marks her twentieth anniversary on the job) Shannon is also the children’s minister at Gardendale Church of the Nazarene. With a husband and five children, it would be all too easy to shrug off exercise. And yet, come early Saturday morning, Shannon will be out on the road, sometimes joined by a few running buddies, including her boss, Shirley Emberg, and Katie Vick. In warmer months they are out as early as 4:30 a.m; in the winter, it’s normally 6:00-6:30 a.m. “I can handle 22 degrees,” Shannon says. “If it’s below 22, you won’t find me out. I’ll be on the treadmill.”
In today’s fast-paced world of convenience stores and fast food restaurants on every corner, Shannon believes it’s crucial that parents set an example for their children by taking care of their own health. “I think most moms my age, you get so busy with your kids and jobs sometimes that you let your health go and don’t exercise as much,” she says. “The one thing about running, you don’t have to be a track star, you really don’t have to have special equipment. If I can continue to do these things then hopefully my kids will have better lifestyles.”
The Day kids are certainly off to a good start. “Dawson did a 5K run two years ago in Nashville. He wants to start lifting weights,” Shannon says. “Camden is more into yoga. Aiden enjoys running and Brooklyn likes to go, and that little girl can run a mile!”
Sounds like Mom may soon have a new running buddy. 78