If you’ve ever run the streets of Charleston or participated in a local race, there’s a good chance you were passed with a greeting from a speedy blonde-haired woman saying, “Granny, coming through!” For some, it’s incentive to speed up to not let “Granny” beat them. Others might walk away feeling defeated, having been smoked by “Granny.” Still, it’s likely it put a smile on the faces of anyone who saw or heard Cherry Kent (or “Granny”) come by at her usual 8 minute/mile pace.
And, that’s exactly why Cherry Kent runs.
“I just really do love it,” said Kent. “It’s a great sport. Racing is what got me hooked, but once I started racing, it motivated me… Health was a side benefit. I just really liked the competition.”
This year, Cherry Kent turned 65 years old. On November 7, 2021 she ran the New York City Marathon, her 49th marathon and ninth NYC Marathon. She’s run the Boston Marathon 15 times and tells her tales of marathoning with vivid memories of both pain and love.
In fact, in 2019, she ran the Boston Marathon and could barely walk for days after, due to a lower back injury. She was not proud of her time that year and even considered giving up marathons completely.
Now, at 65 years old, that’s all changed. She ran her third fastest NYC Marathon this year with a finish time of 4:09:18 (~9:30 minute/mile pace).
“The coaching from Without Limits and strength training has improved my running experience,” said Kent. “As you get older, you need to incorporate more strength training and having a plan, with pickups, for the long runs helped a lot.”
Cherry joined Without Limits in 2019, around the same she was considering retiring from her marathon career.
Now, she has a new goal.
“I’ve qualified for the Boston Marathon in 2022. That will get me to 50 marathons. I’ll try to keep an open mind about it after that,” said Kent.
Having run 49 marathons to date, she understands the work that goes into having a successful race and the often-painful recovery after a marathon.
She stays with her friend Chancy every year when she runs the NYC Marathon. And, through the years, their experience surrounding the race has changed.
“We call it the ‘geriatric adventure’ now,” Kent said laughing. “If I do NYC again, I will have to make more accommodations for after the race for our ‘geriatric adventure.’”
Cherry Kent is a competitor amongst people of all ages. She started running 37 years ago. Some years, she completed four marathons in a year. She’s run hundreds of 5ks, 10ks, half-marathons and completed dozens of triathlons.
The thing she loves most about running is the connections she’s made.
“I’ve met so many friends. I know so many people through it.”
She met her husband Matthew Kent through running years ago.
“We would not be together if not for running,” said Kent. “It’s great that we support each other. We also get mad at each other, too. If we offer too much advice, we will yell at each other… And, if I get too old to race, I’ll still be supporting him at races.”
Cherry Kent is an inspiration to her Without Limits teammates and coaches, and frankly, anyone who crosses her path. But, even with her speedy 24-minute 5ks and blazing fast marathons, she finds a way to be the least intimidating person at races. If her speed doesn’t catch your attention, her humor and ability to laugh at herself is sure to draw you in.
“After one race, when they were calling out awards, they pronounced my name as ‘Shimmy Cracker’,” said Cherry Kent. “I don’t know how they got that, but after that, several people called me Shimmy Cracker.”
So, whether you refer to her as Granny, Shimmy Cracker, or any other affectionate name, Cherry Kent will put a smile on your face…even when she’s leaving you in the dust.