NEW YORK — Red Springs native Ryan Sherrill has been through a lot the last eight months.
Sherrill, who now lives in New York City, just completed his second run in the New York City Marathon, but that was the end of a stretch that tested him as he battled mental and physical obstacles to even compete in the race.
It was the lessons learned running that helped him get back to doing what he loves most.
The physical roadblock on his course to the 2017 New York City Marathon came in March when he was in a bicycling accident while commuting, and ran head on with another cyclist going the wrong way in the bike lane. He broke his zygomatic arch, the bone located under his eye on the cheek area of his face, in the accident and was forced to take time away from training for that to heal.
Then came an emotional hit for Sherrill, 32, and many in New York on Oct. 31 when the terror attack on Manhattan occurred as a man drove a rental truck into a bike lane and killed eight people and injured 11 people. Sherrill was within earshot of the incident and then went to the scene to see the authorities shoot into the truck and kill the suspect.
“I felt like it was a dream,” he said. “I was out training with some dogs and heard a roar and saw a truck going down the bike lane. I ran down to try and help get the suspect and was 15 feet away when they shot him in the truck.”
Sherrill, who served two tours of duty in the U.S. Army out of high school, went to the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital following the event to talk with counselors. After working his way back from the physical effects from the March injury, he was unsure if running the race less than two weeks after witnessing the terror attacks was the right move.
“After seeing something like that, you can’t say ‘I’m not going to do this.’ You need to get back out there and run,” Sherrill said. “I had just got cleared to go back and train and after the attack I knew I had to go run.
“For the past five months I got real depressed because I couldn’t go out and run, and just when I got back out there and was happy, then the attack happened and things filled up in my mind. The VA told me to go run, and others told me that you might see a lot of difficult things but you don’t give up.”
Through all the hurdles he had to get over to reach it, Sherrill completed the New York City Marathon on Nov. 5, and posted his second-best time in a marathon at 3:51:08.
The marathon is hosted by the New York Road Runners. Sherrill started running with the organization nearly two years ago and has since competed 15 races and 153.3 miles during that span, including two 26.2-mile runs in the 2016 and 2017 New York City Marathon, and has also ran in the Charleston Marathon. In 2016 he had his career-best time of 3:49:16.
His love for running came at a young age and picked up while running on the track team Red Springs High School, and then in the Army as a part of their physical training.
“When I was in the Army I was usually one of the fastest guys in my unit when we would go out for our runs,” he said. “When I found out about the New York Road Runners, I joined them on one race and I fell in love. …It’s a healing thing for me.”
After leaving the military he attended Queens College in New York, and ran one race with the cross country team, but other obligations made it tough to balance running on the team. Sherrill then realized that running was something he liked to do on his own terms.
“The only way to move up in this sport is in training by yourself,” Sherrill said. “When you are running marathons the hardest part comes when you reach the 18-mile or 20-mile mark. Your body starts cramping and you want to quit. Getting over that is the biggest battle. If you can beat yourself, there is nobody that can beat you or stop you from getting better.
“Running is a sport with no timeouts. You got to come ready.”
Now as a dog trainer, who also runs larger dog breeds in the city for people, Sherrill usually travels about 20-plus miles per day by foot, including six miles of hard training for events that he runs. To qualify for the New York Marathon as a New York Road Runner, Sherrill must compete in nine races throughout the year and volunteer for another and he has three races coming up, including a run at midnight on New Year’s Eve in Central Park.
With two New York Marathons and a one Charleston Marathon down, there are still two things he wants to complete as a runner.
“The biggest goal for me is to get under three hours in a marathon,” he said. “The next goal would be to go out and run the Boston and Chicago marathons and all the other majors.”
The major marathons include the New York, Boston, Chicago, Berlin, London and Tokyo marathons.
Sherrill is a 2003 graduate of Red Springs High School and is the son of Kenny and Betty Jo Sherrill. After high school he enlisted in the Army and had a tour of duty to Korea and another to Iraq, where he reached the rank of specialist. He graduated from Queen’s College in 2012.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.