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It’s a runderful life: SMS PE Teacher Sherry Lee shows students she practices what she preaches by taking running one step at a time

When Sunnyvale Middle School P.E. teacher, Sherry Lee, was her students’ age, she didn’t like running. But that all changed when she was in grad school and was inspired by a certain producer/rapper that ran the New York City Marathon.

“It’s kind of embarrassing, but when Puff Daddy ran the New York City Marathon and I saw him finish I just thought, maybe I can do that,” Lee said.

It became a bucket list item for her to run a half marathon. She started slow, trained, made small goals and met them. When she completed her first marathon she said there was nothing like it.

“The people coming together, the spectators, everyone sharing the same goal, the pitter patter of everyone’s feet running together, it was just so beautiful,” she said. “With everyone cheering each other on and that feeling you get when you finish, you just feel so accomplished. In that moment you feel like you’ve won the gold medal.”

It quickly became a passion for her and even changed the trajectory of her career. She began as an elementary teacher and taught math and science, but found teaching physical education was a great way to meld both of her passions together.

“I see myself in my students and how I hated running when I was their age but I hope to show them that anyone can run and that even if you’re not super passionate about running, I hope to teach them about sustaining their endurance,” she said. “I want them to see that I practice what I preach and that they can start with baby steps and that the most basic thing can lead to many passions. If not a new sport, they can relate to the self-discipline it takes and internal motivation.”

She reminds her students that if they get tired they can always walk, but to pick a point to start running again.

“Running is about putting your mind over what your body is trying to do,” she said. “[It’s like a colleague once told me] ‘Mind over matter, if you don’t mind it don’t matter.’”

Lee lives that motto having run 43 marathons to date and will run her 44th in December.

This past June, she helped shatter the 100×1-Mile Relay World Record. She was recruited by the race director, as well as a few of her other run team teammates from the Excelsior Running Club. 100 different women each ran 1 mile on the track at Cox Stadium in San Francisco. The group beat the previous record of 9:23:39, set by the Canadian Women’s Milers Club in 1999, by over five minutes.

“The cherry on top for me was that my almost 2-year-old daughter got to witness a diverse group of women (including her over 40-year-old mom) break this world record,” Lee said. “Being able to be a part of that team, with my daughter there, was so cool. Who knows, maybe she will be a part of the next record.”

Lee said she hopes her students see that she started very much where they are and running is just about getting started.

“Just being able to start has put me on this journey that has been a great stress reliever and a fun and challenging way to stay healthy,” Lee said.

Lee encourages students and staff to join her and Mr. Walton who lead the SMS Run Club that is a casual run club that meets in February through April where students and staff run together after school.

Article by District Communications Coordinator Alia Wilson.

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