Sheala Cunningham of Spring, Texas has been on an amazing and inspirational fitness and health journey since 2001. At that time, her daughter had just turned one and Sheala decided it was time to “get in shape.” She focused on balanced, nutritious food choices to fuel her lifestyle and eventually lost 102 pounds. “I added running, because I just wanted to run (like Forrest Gump),” she jokes, with a hint of truth. Since then, this determined lady has logged thousands of miles, three full marathons, 50+ half marathons and countless other shorter distance races.
Sheala is also on an impressive run streak, logging 600 consecutive days in a row for no less than 5k a day. She runs most of these miles with her “best friend,” a 5-year-old rescue lab mix named Moose. She even kept up the streak when recuperating from COVID-19 and having emergency gallbladder surgery in August 2021. “There was no way I was going to break that consecutive number, so I just walked in place for 45 minutes next to my hospital bed while I held on to my IV stand. My husband calls me stubborn but I see it as dedication,” Sheala laughs.
It’s hard to believe that Sheala once considered herself a shy, reserved person. Today, the enthusiasm and upbeat attitude of this six-year Beef Team member is infectious whether you bump into her at a race, volunteer opportunity or social event. One of her favorite team memories is leading a giant conga line with her talent show troupe (after they performed to the Bee Gees) at the 2019 Prime Cuts retreat. Sheala also exudes this dynamic energy in other areas of her life including her work for an employee development company as Vice President of Client Services and as an inclusive and encouraging coach in the non-profit running group she started more than a decade ago.
“I decided to start my own nonprofit running group in 2009 when I was told by another local group that I was too slow to join theirs,” says Sheala. “I made it a point that absolutely no one would be left out and invited people of all paces (from running to walking) and our motto was ‘no runner left behind.’ It changed my life and brought me endless gifts through friendship. Shortly thereafter, in 2010, I received my RRCA certification.”
“I know a lot of people talk about a runner’s high,” SheaIa goes on, reflecting about motivation. “I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced that. But what I have experienced is a tremendous amount of self-pride after I slip on my running shoes and walk out the door. I have also found a beautiful meditative space being outside and listening to the cadence of my steps and breath. At a race, my goal is always upright and smiling, that’s a PR I can reach each and every time.”
Read on to find out more about this remarkable member we are proud to have on Texas Beef Team.
Family: I have a wonderful husband, Scott, three adult children, and two bonus teenage children. Plus, my dog Moose.
Hobbies: I’m a member of a local Jeep club, and enjoy lots of mud, bumps and jumps, hills and the wind in wind in my hair! I also have a thing for minerals, rocks and crystals. Seriously, it’s beginning to be a problem.
Surprising Fact: I was a horologist (the study of clocks and timepieces) for over 10 years, and owned my own antique clock repair company.
Beef Team Memories: It’s tough to pick a favorite memory because there have been so many, like my very first race as a Beef Team member. Or, more recently, the very first race after the COVID closures. The common denominator between these two memories (and those between) is the all-encompassing, unconditional love and support from every team member in a Beef Team jersey. There’s nothing like walking up to a race in a strange city or town and then instantly seeing that red top and knowing you have a friend.
Favorite Sponsored Race: The Blue Bell Fun Run in Brenham, Texas is my favorite sponsored race. And, not just because they give away free ice cream at the end – although it is a motivating factor. This is an unparalleled race with volunteer support and beautiful Texas countryside.
Favorite Non-Sponsored Race: Hands down, I love Terry Hershey parkrun. The race organizers are so happy to see our team and speak so highly of us. Not to mention, Beef Team gets so much exposure from runners and bicyclists already out enjoying the trails at Terry Hershey. I can’t count on both hands and feet how often I’ve been asked what Beef Team is and how to join.
Favorite Beef Cuts: I enjoy Flat Iron and Sirloin, preferably with a very garlicky butter sauce on the side!
Favorite Beef Dish: Low-carb Philly cheese steak! What I’ve Learned: How supportive beef can be in a well-balanced diet.
Training Group: I have a close circle of long-standing running friends who appear to be able to put up with me for hours on end while we laugh, make fun each other, and solve the world’s problems.
Favorite Running Gear: My three-pocket running skirts changed everything! Race Mantra: When going up hills, I often sing, “My heart is healthy, my legs are strong, I can do this all day long!”
Best Advice: You’ll never regret going out and running, but you will almost always regret not going out and running. Also, on those mornings you don’t want to run, just strap on your shoes and walk out the front door. You can decide then if you’d like to start running.
Listening To: I often listen to meditations while I run. It’s very rare I listening to music.
Beef Team Love: Thank you, Beef Team! Thank you for accepting me and treating me as if I have always been here. I am grateful to know such incredible people, a true team who would do anything to support their running friends no matter what their pace is (on asphalt and off)!