Shirley Parry will race around the globe and raise important funds and awareness in the process

Running after a world of good.

  • Category
  • Written by
    Diane E. Barber
  • Photographed by
    Shane O’Donnell

Running seven marathons on seven continents in seven days is unfathomable. When Rancho Palos Verdes resident Shirley Parry read about the World Marathon Challenge three years ago, she thought to herself with amazement, “Who would do something like that?”

When she later learned that a friend’s pastor had done it, her perception shifted and she was enthusiastically inspired. “I thought if he could do it, then so could I.”

“Shirley is an inspiration. Her love for our mission to help children has driven her to challenge herself beyond what is imaginable. That is the real key behind the amazing feat she is undertaking.”

With the encouragement of her husband, Chairul, and daughters, Isabel and Claire-Marie, Shirley paid the 35,000-euro entry fee (approximately $40,000) and set her sights on training to join the select field of 2019 international runners. (Only 78 men and 28 women have completed it since its inception five years ago.)

The first leg of the 2019 World Marathon schedule will take place January 31 in Novo, Antarctica, followed by Cape Town, Perth, Dubai, Madrid and Santiago, with the final event in in Miami on February 6.

Shirley’s inspiration was fueled by her passion for helping Los Angeles-based Orthopaedic Institute for Children (OIC)— a nonprofit organization that was founded more than a century ago to serve children with orthopedic trauma injuries and musculoskeletal disorders—such as cerebral palsy and scoliosis—regardless of their families’ ability to pay for services. “I immediately thought that my participation would be a great way to raise money and awareness for OIC, which helps children domestically and internationally.”

Shirley began running in 2011 as a personal commitment to staying healthy shortly after her mother died. The 54-year-old, who recently completed her PhD in education, has since finished 16 marathons including the Berlin, Paris, Chicago and Los Angeles races.

She started preparing for the World Marathon in January 2018 with the help of fitness trainer Matt Leu at Truth Fitness in Palos Verdes. Matt, a triathlete himself, has more than 15 years of experience training for triathlons and ultra-endurance races.

She also enlisted the dietician and nutritionist services of Sarah Pruett at Soufl Nutrition in Redondo Beach. “I was shocked when Sarah told me that I needed 90 to 100 grams of protein per day. A normal day for me was about half of that at the time. I was going to need much more protein intake for muscle recovery.”

Shirley consumes the required protein with three main meals and two snacks per day. A typical breakfast includes eggs and oatmeal with milk, followed by almonds and Greek yogurt late morning, chicken or fish for lunch, nuts or a protein bar snack in the afternoon, and meat or fish for dinner. The balance of her healthy diet includes vegetables, fruit and whey protein drinks made with BiPro.

“BiPro has no taste, so I sometimes mix it with iced coffee.” As for maintaining hydration, she drinks electrolytes, tea and enough water to satisfy her thirst. “Too much water can dilute my electrolytes and minerals during a long run.”

A typical week of training includes running five times, two of which are long runs that are back-to-back. Shirley built the long runs up to 25 miles in October. “The goal is to run four 20+ miles in a row in November and two sets of five consecutive days of 20+ miles in December/early January.”

Normally her back-to-back long runs are on weekends, with shorter runs that are typically 45 to 90 minutes on weekdays. She trains on flat trails in Palos Verdes because the competition will be mostly on flat land at low-altitude seaside locations.

She monitors her runs, heart rate and sleep with a Polar watch. To balance the physical demands of running, she practices mindfulness with guidance from an app called Headspace, does yoga and visits her chiropractor, Dr. Yuki Uchida, weekly. “Dr. Uchida likens my visits to pit stops at a car race track: fix quickly, then go out to race again!”

Shirley’s commitment to OIC is at the heart of her training. With her January departure date quickly approaching, she is intent on completing the competition and raising $77,700 in donations for her beloved charity.

“Shirley is an inspiration,” says Mary Beth Perrine, the foundation’s assistant vice president of development. “Her love for our mission to help children has driven her to challenge herself beyond what is imaginable. That is the real key behind the amazing feat she is undertaking.”

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