Ferndale woman sets goal to run 40 races for her 40th birthday

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published July 17, 2013

FERNDALE — Sharry Bronson turned 40 in January, but she didn’t use that time to reflect on what she had done or have remorse for what she hadn’t done.

Instead, Bronson used the first day of 2013 to run in a race. It was the first of several for the Ferndale resident, who decided to run 40 races for her 40 years of being alive.

“I am part of a lot of running groups on Facebook and Twitter and saw a blog where a woman was turning 30 and doing 30 races, so I took it one step further and decided to do 40 races for my 40th birthday,” Bronson said. “I did a lot of walking for a couple years and when I started running, I had no intention of doing races. But then I started doing some 5k races and now I latched onto this 40 bit, and so I’ve been doing it.”

Through July 13, Bronson has run 24 races and is registered for another 12, so she only needs to register for four more. Her final race will be on New Year’s Eve on Belle Isle in Detroit.

Bronson said she has doubled up on races twice, with one race on Saturday and the second on Sunday. Still, making sure to have 36 Saturday mornings open throughout the year takes commitment and good scheduling.

“I live in Ferndale, so I try to stick close to home and don’t go any further than 30 or 40 minutes away,” she said. “Most races are early, so I’m done by 10 or 11 a.m. and even if I go out with friends for brunch afterwards, I’m home by noon. It doesn’t wipe me out for the weekend, and with a shower and a nap, I’m ready to go.”

The other big commitment it takes to run the races is a financial commitment. Bronson said race registration ranges from $20 to $50 a race, but runs like the Detroit Free Press half marathon can cost as much as $100. The key to saving some money, she said, is registering early.

“It is not cheap to do all these runs, but a lot of prices go up as time goes on, so I registered for the Free Press half marathon the first week of January and paid $45,” Bronson said. “The way I look at it, these runs are my entertainment for the summer, so you budget for it like you would anything else.”

One generous stranger helped relieve some financial pressure by donating $50 to Bronson after the two talked on Twitter about her goal. Bronson said she used the money to register for a meaningful race, the Heroes on Hines run in the Dearborn area that helped construct a monument dedicated to first responders.

The Heroes on Hines run was different than some of the other ones Bronson has done, however. Some, like the Cork Town 5k for St. Patrick’s Day and the Rainbow Run in Ferndale, had Bronson dressing up in colorful costumes.

The University of Michigan graduate has even worn Wolverines’ gear that has drawn some cheers and “Go Blue” chants from strangers.

“I wouldn’t say it is easier to complete a race with a theme, but it is fun to throw on a costume and run three miles,” Bronson said. “When you wear something distinctive, people tend to cheer for you more and it makes it more fun.”

While costumes may not help make the race easier, running with friends or family has made runs go faster, Bronson said. She has even joined a running group, Southeast Michigan Runners, on Facebook to meet up with other runners for races and training.

Becky DeLiso, 30, met Bronson through a Tigers fan group almost two years ago and the two have run together for about 10 months. DeLiso said that when she first heard what Bronson wanted to do, she was skeptical.

“At first I was thinking, ‘How is she going to pull this off,’ because it is a lot of running,” DeLiso said. “But, the more we talked about it, I thought it was something pretty cool. She set this goal for herself and she has been able to maintain it, so I think it is pretty clear that she really likes and enjoys running.”

Bronson said in the early months of her goal, in January and February, there were mornings she didn’t want to get up and run in the cold, but she has yet to miss a race she has registered for.

DeLiso said the dedication it takes for Bronson to stay on track and complete her goal is something many people don’t have.

“I think it is really great and it takes a lot of commitment and it is pretty expensive,” DeLiso said. “What she has done, I think it is really admirable and it takes toughness and commitment because you have to stay healthy and run every weekend and train and it just takes a lot of time and dedication. She has had to do some schedule juggling because she goes to baseball games and spends time with friends and family, but she has impressed me with what she has been able to do.”

Bronson’s 5k time is about 30 minutes, which she admits isn’t terribly fast, but is respectable in the running world. With over half her races done, a woman who rarely ran three years ago feels pretty confident about reaching her goal of 40 races for 40 years.

“In the beginning, I got all the, ‘Wow, you’re crazy,’ responses from everybody, but everyone has been really supportive this whole time,” Bronson said. “I’ve had to be dedicated because, otherwise, I wouldn’t have made it this far. As soon as I set my mind to something, I’m going to do it, and so far with this, I have.”