Two sentiments we could all live by, and ones Shanel Curtis demonstrates on a daily basis. Mother of two, running and exercise enthusiast, graduate of Missoula College’s Culinary Arts Program, Navy veteran, and future school teacher, Shanel lives what she believes. “If I’m expecting people to adopt what I’m teaching, I better be living it!”
It didn’t start this way.
“Growing up, I didn’t enjoy running.” In fact, she detested it. “Running a mile as part of the National Physical Fitness Test Standards was something I really hated because I was out-of-shape and I didn’t eat well growing up.” It wasn’t until her early 20’s that she entertained the positive aspects of running, and laced up her shoes with a new mindset. She also incorporated cycling and swimming into her exercise repertoire and began competing in triathlons.
Nutrition became important, and she enrolled and graduated from Missoula College’s Culinary Arts Program before entering the Navy’s Enlisted Aide program where she hoped to apply her news skills. Assigned to Captains and Admirals of various naval ships, Shanel tried to incorporate her culinary skills. However, there wasn’t much room to be creative when serving 6,000 crew members per meal (NOTE: Shanel was primarily stationed on the USS Carl Vinson). Additionally, running took a back seat when out-to-sea, “You’re pretty exhausted after 16-hour days.” Nonetheless, her focus to be healthy remained.
Upon completing her service, Shanel returned home to Missoula with her daughter, Lilly, and entered the culinary scene. Something was missing, though. On her mind was combining the two things she loved (nutrition and exercise) and finding a way to make a positive difference in the world. She decided to go back to school and earn a degree in Health Enhancement (with a dual major in Art) from the University of Montana. Within a couple years, she will graduate with a teaching degree and begin sharing with children practical ways to live a healthy lifestyle.
Active lifestyle, living what she believes.
Shanel’s first half marathon was Missoula’s inaugural race in 2007, and this year she ran the 2016 Missoula Half Marathon after completing Run Wild Missoula’s (RWM) training class.
“Running opens up doors for other activities. It gives you more freedom, and keeps you from becoming a prisoner of your own body.” – Shanel Curtis.
While training, she found herself transitioning from being a continual runner to embracing the method where one inserts walk breaks while running. “A bunch of runners had these beepers going off during the class and I had to ask them about it.” (The beeps indicate when to take a walk break and when to restart running.) Shanel gave it a try and noticed her times improved with the walk breaks. Mid-class, she adopted the Galloway method and finished the race strong at 2:30:14.
Not to remain idle, Shanel following the Missoula Half by competing in Oregon’s Hood to Coast race (199-mile team run from Mt. Hood to Seaside, Oregon), in addition to physical activities such as a 120-mile bike ride, teaching at youth camps, and instructing kids how to swim at the University of Montana Griz swimming pool last summer.
Shanel and her friend Staci (a non-runner until this year) will be completing the Las Vegas Rock ’n’ Roll Half Marathon this November. Noted Staci, “she inspired me to start running and get healthier. She even got me to sign up for the Rock ’n’ Roll Las Vegas half marathon which I never thought that I would ever be able to do! Where I started out not running at all, I now do interval running 4–plus miles, 3 times a week.” She and Staci plan to sign-up for RWM’s Galloway Missoula Marathon Training Class next year, and complete the full 26.2 miles on race day.
Staying healthy and active doesn’t necessarily require running half marathons or competing in triathlons, though. It’s incorporating activity into your every day life. “Forget something at the grocery store? Let’s ride our bikes and go pick it up,” notes Shanel. “Need to prepare for a test? Let’s hike the M and study for it,” she says after learning that exercise before an exam results in better grade performance. “It’s raining outside,” notes her friend, Staci. “Let’s go run in the mud,” responds Shanel. You get the gist. She truly lives what she believes, and does so with such genuineness and authenticity that you can’t help but want to follow her lead. “Exercise with a purpose,” she’s been known to say. “I plan on being active when I’m 80, and who knows, maybe then my times will qualify for Boston,” she says with a hearty, and warm laugh.
Shanel lives in Missoula with her domestic partner, Jeremy, and their two daughters Lilly (age 6) and Kitah (age 7). In addition to her studies and student teaching responsibilities, she enjoys baking, cross country skiing, ice skating, and roller skating. Shanel and her family also enjoy art and being outdoors. Not surprising, their daughters have participated in the Kids Missoula Marathon every year since inception.
Following are a few fun running facts about Shanel.
How often do you run?
The frequency and amount of miles I run per week depends on what I am training for and if it is a rest week. During heavy training I like to run two to five times a week, and during rest weeks it is closer to two. I find that I run anywhere from 8-20+ miles a week depending on the difficulty of the run. I like to listen to my body.
Road or Trails?
Either are good, although I like scenic routes. I do like the soft surfaces trails provide, but forget the hills. For me, it’s all about the adventure!
Favorite running shoes?
BROOKS! At least that’s what the Runner’s Edge tells me is my favorite shoe.
Favorite gel / energy nutrition during a run?
Gummy anything and espresso chocolate covered coffee beans. Mimosas would be preferred, but I can’t carry that in my running belt.
Pre-race meal / routine?
Complex carbohydrates and proteins the night before. Something small the morning of.
Favorite post-meal indulgence?
Tim and Carol’s pancake breakfasts. I find that I recover much quicker when Tim makes my pancakes into the shape of a running shoe.
Ever win your age category?
Most memorable race?
St. Patrick’s Day costume race in San Diego five years ago. I dressed up as a rainbow, Lilly’s dad was a 6’7” giant leprechaun, my friend wore an all green suit, and Lilly was the pot-of-gold. While we didn’t win the race, we did win the costume contest.
Toughest race, and why?
One of my legs in the Hood to Coast this year. It was mostly uphill, my second run that day, and about 95 degrees out.
What do you like most about running?
I love the social aspect, the sense of community, and the snacks after class!
Finish sentence: If I can’t run, I’d ___________________.
Bike, swim, hike, camp, cook, make artwork, play with my kids.
“I can’t keep running because my skin is itchy”. – David Finley (Staci’s son during the Huckleberry Race).
If you could meet one person (past or present, runner or not), who would it be and why?
Meret Oppenheim. She was having lunch with Pablo Picasso and Dora Maar and it was jokingly suggested that “almost anything could be covered in fur” and through analyzation they created the Object (Fur-covered cup, saucer, and spoon). This one surrealist piece has created multitudes of visceral reactions from people through the idea of fur touching one’s mouth while drinking tea. I like that something so small, can be so impactful.
Do you know someone from our Run Wild Missoula community that we should get to know better? Nominate them for a future !