With an iPod in hand and a smile on her face, Keddi-Anne Sherbino was as unassuming as any one of the nearly 500 competitors who lined up at the start of the 2010 BMO Okanagan Marathon.
Other than inhaling a bit of fresh air, getting some exercise and having a little fun, there was little else the diminutive UBC Okanagan student expected from her first ever try at the marathon distance.
“I didn’t really tell anyone about it, I just thought I’ll go out and do this race and check it off my list,” said Sherbino, 21, who moved to Kelowna from Tsawwassen two years ago to attend university. “It’ll be one of those one-time things and then I’ll just move on to something else.
“I really had no idea it would turn out the way it did.”
Despite never having run as far as the marathon distance (42.2 km)—even in training—Sherbino completed the Okanagan race last October in two hours 53 minutes 35 seconds, winning the female division by a staggering 21 minutes.
Until the last two kilometres of the run, Sherbino admits she was oblivious to what she was about to accomplish.
“I remember saying towards the very end, ‘Hey, you’re going to win this.’ I thought, Holy Cow, this was unexpected.”
“I looked at my sister after the race and said ‘I’m not even tired.’ I didn’t realize what a big deal it was at the time.”
She may not have known it at that precise moment, but it would be one of the major turning points in Sherbino’s eventual decision to seriously pursue competitive running.
Nearly eight months after that crisp fall morning in Kelowna, she is really just beginning to recognize and acknowledge her true potential.
Earlier this month she surprised both herself and the running community once more with her most significant victory yet. Sherbino won the BMO Vancouver Marathon in a time of 2:43:38, nearly 10 minutes faster than at the Okanagan.
“Again I was dumbfounded and shocked,” she said.
“But this time it started to dawn on me, there might be some potential there. As in October (Okanagan) I wanted to do well. I wanted to place well for Canada. I didn’t actually think I was going to win.”
Sherbino’s early success has come without the aid of a permanent coach or a focused training regime geared to running.
The Elite Athlete Coordinator for the Vancouver Marathon said that makes Sherbino’s exploits—two wins in as many marathons—even more remarkable.
“Doing it at such a young age and with as little experience as she has is pretty amazing,” said Brian Torrance.
“Usually marathoners are a bit older, into their 30s before they really show their best.
“With Keddi-Anne right now, there’s a lot of untapped potential. She’s a little raw and uncontrolled but her compete level is high.
“Once she finds her goal and focuses on it, I think her potential is limitless.”
While she has always enjoyed running, it’s only one of a multitude of sports and physical activities Sherbino has experimented with over the years—biking, hiking, swimming, triathlon, rollerblading, soccer, and kickboxing among them.
After living in both Nova Scotia and Ontario as a young child, Sherbino moved to B.C. with her family in 2000.
It was soon apparent that the fourth of five daughters in the Sherbino family had a special gift.
While in Grade 12 at South Delta Secondary School, she won the Super Fit Award, an honour bestowed annually on the most physically fit student in the school.
Sherbino also proved to have many attributes and interests outside the realm of athletics, including playing the lead in her high school musical, serving as student council president, and being the leader of a local youth group. Sherbino remains active in her church and continues to perform volunteer work in Kelowna.
Her dad, Mike Sherbino, says Keddi-Anne’s positive outlook on life has helped in all her endeavors, not just running.
“Keddi-Anne has always been active and has always had a strong sense of determination,” said Mike Sherbino.
“Wherever we lived, the family grew up in a healthy environment and we did a lot of outdoor stuff.
“She was never a diehard athlete, she seemed to kind of take everything in stride and just enjoy it. But she could also be determined when she put her mind to it.
“We’re extremely proud of her for what she’s doing with her running, but also for her living an extremely well-rounded life.
“She’s passionate about everything she does and we’re right behind her.”
The result in Vancouver has convinced Sherbino to set her sights higher.
She has decided to chase Canada’s Olympic marathon standard of 2:29:50, with the goal of qualifying for the 2012 Games in London.
“It really dawned on me the last few weeks,” said Sherbino, who runs for Fresh Air in Kelowna and is also employed there. “I’ve stopped playing games in the back of my head that I didn’t qualify as an athlete. I don’t have a coach, so I kept thinking maybe I don’t deserve the title.
“But no matter what happens, my training and self-motivation seems to be working. I seem to be getting somewhere. My head space is changing and I’m really interested to see how far I can take this.”
Sherbino is actively searching for a coach and plans to continue training for the summer in Kelowna. Based on what she’s accomplished in less than two years, it’s hard to imagine Sherbino won’t continue to make significant progress.
In her first run—the Langley 1/2 marathon in July 2009—Sherbino placed 19th.
In the 11 races since, she was won women’s title nine times, including the Peak to Beak in Kelowna (18 km), the Delta Half Marathon, and the Campus to Campus Half Marathon in Kelowna.
She has improved on her half marathon time in each of her last five races, with her personal best of 1:18:03 coming at the April Fool’s Run on the Sunshine Coast.
To have realistic opportunity at cracking the 2:30 mark in the marathon and qualifying for the Olympics, Sherbino said she would need to lower her half marathon time to 1:12 or better.
Sherbino knows reaching the Canadian Olympic standard by the April 15, 2012 cutoff won’t be easy but it won’t stop her from trying.
“The lower you try and go at that level, the harder it is,” she said. “I know it’s a lot of time to take off, but I’m not counting it out. I want to give it my best shot.”
Next weekend, Sherbino will continue her training with a 10 km run at the Ottawa Marathon where her father Mike will join her.
She’s also considering competing at the Toronto Marathon in October.
Still, regardless of where running takes her and what potential successes or failures lay ahead, the happy-go-lucky Sherbino vows not to forget who she is or what she stands for.
“I want to see where I can go with this, but the moment I lose my smile when I’m running, that’s it,” she said. “I’m not going to say I won’t get more competitive or push harder, but a smile can go a long way.
“I have a lot to be thankful for, so if I’m just running and that’s all I have at the end of the day, then it’s not much.
Family, friends, giving to others, that’s what matters. Greater things are won or lost. If I do well with running, it’s a bonus.”