Live, Laugh, Run & Dance with Shawanna White

Live, laugh, run and DANCE. Run some more, then dance some more. Finish up a long run and finish up with some dance moves. Shawanna White brings so much joy into her passion for running as she does it with a smile every time. If you ever needed a smile or to feel good and gain inspiration look no further than Shawanna White the 6th fastest BLACK born US Marathoner with a time of 2:45:19. This month, Mid Strike Magazine is excited to speak with South Carolina native Shawanna as we get to find out how she became one of the fastest black athletes in the United States.

MSM: Welcome and thank you for taking the time to speak with us here at Mid Strike. You run with so much passion, determination and joy. For most of us after a run myself included ESPECIALLY after a long run, there are two things I normally think about food and sleep but you manage to end your runs with a smile and a dance. How are you able to find so much joy after a run?

Shawanna: First, thank you for reaching out and it’s an honor to be featured in Mid Strike Magazine. I am able to find joy after every run because I have just finished doing something in which I love with every run completed. Running while enjoying time with friends is an added bonus which is always a joyous occasion because of the connections I form with others.

MSM: Your post run photos tend to lighten up the day as it gives a nice change of pace with all the craziness that’s happening in the world. Regarding the post-race dance routine, do you come up with this pre run or during?

Lexington Half Marathon

Shawanna: The Friday Dance sometimes happens before the run, in the middle of the run or after the run. As for the dance routine, I tend to get inspiration from Tik-Tok the night before, or I’ll just come up with something during the run. There have been times when my friend comes up with the routine. Those are my favorites and dancing with others period.

 MSM: Was running something that was always a part of your life? How long have you been running constantly?

Shawanna: My running journey started my sophomore year at D.M. Therrell High School in Atlanta because my coach asked me to join the team. After high school I ran at the University of West Georgia and after graduating I stopped running. In 2008, I laced up my running shoes and I have been running consistently now for 12 years. 20 years all together.

MSM: At what point did you realize that running was your passion?

Shawanna: The moment I realized running was my passion was in high school. I was finally able to participate in a sport that I was good at which helped me to build my confidence. I love all the aspects of running from being a spectator, watching/reading all things about running and at one point I was a youth coach.

MSM: You started running in Georgia then made the move to Columbia SC. How is the run community in SC. Do you find running is as big in South Carolina as it is in Georgia?

Shawanna:  The run community in Columbia, SC is smaller than Atlanta but the people are caring, friendly and competitive so it stills feel like home.

 MSM: You’re very consistent when it comes to getting your miles in. For our readers, give us an idea into your training. For weeks and months what do you like to stick to when it comes to your target miles?

Shawanna: I run 6 days a week with a rest day on Monday.  I run hard twice a week with a speed session on Wednesday. The other hard day is tempo work or a race. The remainder of the days are run at sexy pace (easy running). My mileage for now is 60-70 miles but during marathon training its 70-90.

MSM: Becoming one of the fastest black marathoners in the United States is not an easy feat to accomplish. Take us through this process and how it happened and the race where it happened. Did you have an idea that you were close or something that was a goal of yours?

Shawanna: Long story short the reason the fastest women black marathon US born list exist is because I emailed Amby Burfoot some years ago after reading First Ladies of Running. I learned from his book about Marilyn Bevans the 1st African-American to run sub 3 hours. Marlyn also finished a close 2nd at the 1977 Boston Marathon. I wanted to know more about others because I hardly seen or heard of women born in the USA that run marathons. This was proven when I raced because I was the only one. I know all the great east African ladies but I wanted to know about ladies from the USA so Amby put me in contact with Gary Corbitt. After that, Gary did the research and came up with this list that is constantly growing. Originally, I was 6th or 7th then I moved up to 4th and now back to 6th. I am striving to be number one.

MSM: Not only are you one of the fastest runners in this country you also ran 15 of your marathons in under 3 hours. Another feat within itself. For our readers let me repeat that last part (15 marathons in UNDER 3 HOURS) the first African American female to do so? Do you ever look back at this accomplishment in amazement?

Shawanna: Yes and Yes!!!! It’s an honor to be able to do that, and I just hope that I inspire more African American ladies to get out there and run, It’s no longer 15 because I ran 2:53:06 at the Mercedes Benz Marathon in February.

MSM: For our readers, take through your race resume, I’m sure this is pretty loaded. Out of these races which one stands out as most memorable?

Shawanna: In the past, I would say a race where I PR’d or winning my 3rd marathon was my greatest running accomplishment, but not anymore. My most treasured running experience was in November 2013 when I ran my first race back from hip surgery in honor of my grandmother who died from pancreatic cancer. I was overwhelmed with joy to be able to race pain-free to celebrate my grandmother’s life and to support pancreatic cancer.

MSM: Prior to starting a race what is your pre-race mindset and preparation like? How are you able to get super focused and ready to go? 

Shawanna: Pre-race mindset is to relax, run hard and have fun. It’s easy to be focused because I love running.

MSM: You’ve been running for a while, what are some of the things you’ve done to stay healthy and ready?

Shawanna: The number one thing for me to staying healthy is running my easy runs nice and slow. Also, going to the chiropractor every 2 weeks for adjustment and ART (Active Release Therapy). I used to get a massage frequently but I learned during COVID to use my recovery tools more. (sidekick muscle scraper, massage gun and Airrelax boots).

MSM: The current state of running feels like we’re really working to break down doors in our run community when it comes to inclusion and diversity. Do you feel as if your accomplishments with being a successful runner created a more open dialogue between yourself and others about diversity in the run community?

Shawanna: I feel that my accomplishments have created a more open dialogue, because more people are more willing to listen to much of what I have to say on the matter due to my success. The success along with my personality has made it possible for many people to get to see and know someone of a different gender and/or race that that shares many common goals besides running. Others have opportunities to actually see that I am not a threat to their livelihoods and many feel comfortable talking to me about various topics.

MSM: 15 Marathons in under 3 hours. What is the big Marathon for you that you haven’t done yet? The one where you say to yourself that’s the one I’m going to get? 

Shawanna: The big marathon for me is all the world majors. I signed up to run Boston this year and declined the virtual because I want to experience the actual course.

MSM: With all of this success life as we know it always manages to throw a few curveballs in. A few years ago you had to have some major surgery on your hip. At what point did you find out this was a major problem that couldn’t get overlooked? Did you try to run through the issue at first?

Shawanna: It was a major problem when I only managed to run 400 meters one day. Prior to that, I was only experiencing pain towards the end of a run or once stopping. After that, my chiropractor sent me to a sports med doctor at Emory Hospital who later sent me to a hip specialist.

MSM: What were your feelings/thoughts after seeing the hip specialist and receiving the news that you needed surgery on your hip?

Shawanna: I was shocked about having to need surgery but also at that point where I was ready to do anything to stop the pain. I had to sit down on my job (physical education teacher) due to the pain. I wasn’t pleased with the 1st hip specialist because he told me that there was a chance I might not be able to run marathons. I immediately got a second opinion with Dr. Hyman…. Best decision!!!! 

MSM: Take us through your recovery time, how hard was that process? Was there ever a time when doubt set in? How were you able to battle and push through mentally and physically?

Shawanna: Learning how to use the crutches was a process. The recovery was hard and long because I was learning how to walk all over. The PT sessions at first kicked my butt to the point where I was crying. So yes there was doubt at first but I changed my mindset to focus on growing and not things that I couldn’t do. In addition, I stayed involved in the running community by volunteering and going to races to cheer my friends on so that was a mental boost. I know it’s strange but I love running whether I can do it or not. I’ll always find a way to stay involved.

MSM: What’s on the horizon for Shawanna White? COVID has cancelled 2020 and looks to be in line to do the same for at least part of 2021. Are there any races in particular that you’re eyeing in the future?

Shawanna: Right now I am focused on 2020 because I have a few races on the horizon. On December 6th, I am running the Mortgage Network Half where I going for 40-44 South Carolina State record and on December 19th I am shooting to run a mile PR in Jacksonville, FL.

MSM: Any last words for our readers?

Shawanna: It’s simple Be Kind to All!!!!

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