Some might say Shirley is an unlikely runner in the upcoming race, but those that know her understand its significance.
Shirley Zanes, one of our marathon contest winners, is set to run the Desmond Doss Memorial 4 Bridges Half Marathon Sunday morning. Until two weeks ago, running a race or marathon was a distant goal.
Zanes was diagnosed with lupus in 2000-2001 and had become steadily more dependent on medications. Having grown up with a father who was a pharmaceutical rep, she bought into pills being a cure-all.
June 2016 was a turning point. Zanes realized if she didn't make drastic changes in her life, she might die. Inspired by her husband who began working with a personal trainer, she decided to give exercise and nutrition a try.
Some of the first changes Zanes made were replacing as many junk foods as possible with healthy low-calorie replacements while counting calories. She also stopped drinking caffeinated-diet soda and replaced it with pure water.
After a year, Zanes switched completely to whole plant-based foods and the biggie is eating greens at every meal. She has cut nearly all sugar out of her diet and is oil free. She works out 3-5 days a week and consistently walks.
Zanes' new diet and lifestyle has been a life changer. So far she has lost 60 pounds and has weaned herself off many of the medications for her lupus. She contended, "I'm still a work in progress, but it has completely changed the amount of exercise I can perform and greatly increased my stamina. I didn't believe," emphasized Zanes, "that I could get rid of an autoimmune disease just by exercising and eating nutritious foods." Zanes isn't totally free of the lupus but is confident she's on the right track.
But wait, there's another angle to Zanes' journey that started many years ago. In the late 60s, she will never forget meeting Desmond Doss when he demoed his knots for the young people at a church event. She saw him through the years at various meetings and churches and was struck by his small size, gentle spirit and humility. "He reminded me of my granddad who was struck by a car and killed when I was seven," recalls Zanes, "so there was some REAL hero worship involved!"
When Zanes was in third grade, she and her brother entered a free book drawing at a local church and won. She chose Swift Arrow and her brother chose The Unlikeliest Hero (renamed Redemption at Hacksaw Ridge), the book on Desmond Doss' life. Within a year, Zanes took possession of her brother's book and still has it. She has no idea how many times she has read it cover to cover, but feels confident that number is likely several dozen times.
The biggest reason Zanes was drawn to Desmond's story: "I was the smallest, youngest and adopted. Everyone else seemed to be bigger and stronger," she shared. "I never felt empowered, until after I read that book," stated Zanes. "I wanted to be a hero like he was."
Entering the contest giveaway for the marathon was a continuation of Zanes' journey. She stated, "The reason I went online and entered the drawing, this race symbolizes one more step in the empowerment process."
Shirley Zanes is the head teacher at Misty Meadows School in Ringgold, Georgia. After the school on Lookout Mountain, Georgia closed, the one that Desmond Doss helped build and support, Zanes ended up teaching many of these children.
Although Desmond never visited the Misty Meadows School facility, he sponsored several children at the school. His devotion to Christian education shouldn't surprise anyone, because Desmond's entire formal education took place in a one-room Seventh-day Adventist school in Lynchburg, Virginia.
After his mother, Desmond's first grade teacher, Mrs. Nell Ketterman, was his greatest inspiration. Ketterman embedded these words in him, "If a job is worth doing, it's worth doing right" (Herndon, 2016, p. 29). These words became part of his life.
Zanes pointed out, "I've always heard if Desmond Doss had any extra money, he helped children get a Christian education." This must have been a blessing to scores of children, giving us yet another reason to be inspired by the life of Desmond Doss.
Come to the race on Sunday and cheer Zanes on, meet Desmond Doss Jr., see the Medal of Honor President Harry Truman presented to Desmond Doss or SIGN UP TO RUN!
Sunday's race will be the seventh year of the 7 Bridges Marathon. Several thousand runners are already registered, but there's still time to sign up before the cutoff Saturday afternoon. REGISTER HERE
Herndon, B. (2016.). Redemption at Hacksaw Ridge. Coldwater, MI: Remnant Publications, Inc.
Jeanie Allen, M.A., M.Ed., is director of Public Relations and Social Media for the Desmond Doss Council.