Sister Julia Shideler isn’t the first member of the Maryknoll Sisters to run and she likely won’t be the last.
Before Shideler, 36, ever became part of Maryknoll, another sister had set the path before her. When the elder sister heard Shideler was running a half marathon, the original runner of Maryknoll had one question for Shideler.
“Why aren’t you doing a full?”
Shideler didn’t know if she could train for a full marathon with all of her other work she was doing. She didn’t want to fall short when her ultimate goal for running the half marathon was to raise money for her students in East Timor.
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“Oh you could do it,” Shideler’s fellow sister said. “I ran a full marathon twice in my leadership.”
“That was her perspective,” Shideler said in a phone interview. “She was unusual. It made it OK to follow in her footsteps.”
Shideler, who spent four years in Bellingham as a Western Washington University student, stuck with the half and is signed up for the Snohomish River Run on Oct. 26 in Snohomish. Although Shideler currently resides in Ossining, N.Y., the former Pacific Northwest native will return to the area where she first began running.
In first grade, Shideler started participating in a family tradition — running Spokane’s annual Bloomsday race. The once a year race eventually turned into joining the cross country team and Shideler just hasn’t stopped running.
“I ran for fun. I was good at it, so it didn’t take too much energy and it didn’t hurt,” Shideler said. “In college, I kept running to stay in shape. I had quite a lot of spiritual experiences. It was a really uplifting way for me to connect with outdoors and God. I just kept doing it.”
In 2005, she joined the Maryknoll Sisters and eventually found herself on a mission in East Timor, learning both culturally and religiously while teaching and helping the kids in Aileu, a town of about 20,000 in East Timor.
While in East Timor, Shideler found herself in a situation she hadn’t been before — she couldn’t run.
“It was really hot and the local people didn’t understand or approve of me running around town,” Shideler said.
So Shideler resorted to other ways to stay in shape. Along with eating healthy, stretching and doing yoga in her room, Shideler walked everywhere.
Not only did walking provide Shideler the opportunity to get some exercise, she was also able to meet and talk with people she never would have if she was running.
When Shideler returned to New York after six years in East Timor, she decided to run a half marathon as a fundraiser for the students in East Timor that never left her mind.
“When I came back for six months, it was a long enough time for me to get back in shape and do it as fundraiser,” Shideler said. “I also thought that it would be another way of promoting running and get back in shape. It was kind of an experiment that felt good. It had been a long time since I was able to run.”
What helped Shideler in her efforts to train, as well as the rest of her life, was what her religion has taught her — self discipline, she said.
She committed to running three times a week and has stuck to it.
“When I tell myself I’m going to do something, I do it,” Shideler said. “It’s become a habit to follow through with things and to do them in the right spirit.”
She also remembers why she’s doing this — to raise money for kids in East Timor. Anytime her mind strays to a negative place, Shideler thinks about her students.
“It perks me up,” Shideler said.
After her half marathon, Shideler will stick around Washington for thanksgiving with her family before returning to East Timor on Dec. 9.