Updated: Mar 20, 2019
Columbia runner Shawanna White recently became the first to complete 15 marathons, each in under three hours.
Shawanna has been training for 15 years and her best time sits at 2:45:19 for 26.2 miles.
She first started running in high school as a sophomore.
“My high school coach asked me if I wanted to come out for the track team, and I told him all he had to do was ask my grandmother.”
She continued her studies at the University of West Georgia, where she ran on their track and cross country teams.
After college, she says she took about four years off from running.
“I was burned out,“ White said. “I just lost my passion for running.”
She began working as a P.E. teacher, as well as a coach. White says it was her students that inspired her to get back into running.
“I really wasn’t living up to my standards as a P.E. teacher. “I saw how hard the kids that I coachwork and they were so excited about their goals and it just really made me miss running,” White said.
She got back into training, running every day, to keep working on a goal she’s had since high school.
“I stated to my coach that I wanted to go to the Olympics,” White said.
Winning multiple races, and most recently claiming the title as “the first African American female runner to run 15 marathons under three hours,” she said. “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 didn’t come easy, and five years ago, it seemed even more far-fetched.
“In 2013, I had to have hip surgery because my hip is not shaped correctly. So I had to have major surgery and that took me out from running for a couple of months,” White said. “It was really a long road just to get back to where I was. I had to start back over with just walking and it was really hard because at some points I didn’t know if I was going to get back to that level.”
The determination was always there. She worked to retrain her body.
“It requires a lot of miles, it requires a lot of early mornings, some doubles for me so that means sometimes I have to run before work and after work,” White said.
As she accomplishes one goal, she says there’s always another to chase.
“The next Olympics is in 2020 and it’s in my hometown of Atlanta, I really want to make it there,” White said.
In order to qualify for a trial at the Olympics, her run time must be 2:45 flat. White is 19 seconds away.
“If I can achieve that time, that is my Olympics, just being able to make it to that start line,” White said.
White tells WIS her long term goal is to run a marathon in 2 hours and 34 minutes and to eventually become the fastest African American female runner in the United States.