Sherry Carll running the Beach to Beacon in 2014. Photo courtesy of Marathonfoto

Sherry Carll ran more than 68,000 miles over the course of her life, averaging 2,000 miles a year while burning through 82 pairs of running shoes.

Running was her greatest passion, and this time of year it was all about the TD Beach to Beacon 10K road race, an internationally known event that draws thousands of runners and spectators to Cape Elizabeth each August. Carll ran the first Beach to Beacon in 1998 and returned to compete every year since then until last year, when she died on July 28 – nine days before the race – after a brief fight with brain cancer. She was 69.

“The day before she died, she was trying to get out of bed at the hospital to take a training run for the race,” said her daughter, Lori Deshaies, of New Gloucester. “That’s how much the race meant to her. She wasn’t going to miss it no matter what.”

Carll was there in spirit. Her son, Shawn Carll, ran the race wearing her bib number. He ran alongside his father, Tom Carll, who was his wife’s longtime running partner.

On Saturday, Tom Carll and six family members will run the Beach to Beacon 10K in memory of Sherry Carll, who nearly achieved her goal of competing in 20 straight Beach to Beacons.

“I’m feeling quite emotional, but she deserves it,” her husband said. “She always talked about running the 20th. It was a big deal to her. She loved the race.”

Sherry Carll was on pace to accomplish her goal. She ran in hundreds of marathons, half-marathons, 5K and 10K road races during her life. She was competitive in her age group for many years.

Carll also coached hundreds of students from Gray-New Gloucester in cross-country and track and field. She was known for a tough, no-nonsense approach that produced several state champions, including her son.

Sherry Carll with her grandchildren and husband. Photo courtesy Lori Deshaies

A devoted mother of two children, Carll was in phenomenal shape. Her husband said she did a lot of work around the house like painting, mowing the lawn and snowblowing. She did the masonry work in their garden and all the cooking.

“My wife was an incredible person,” he said. “We were so close. I would get up in the morning and ask what I could do to make her happy. She motivated me. She was the most precious person to me in the world.”

‘SHE WOULD BE VERY PROUD TO SEE US ALL’

Carll ran year-round and logged roughly 2,000 miles a year. She ran many races with her husband, including the Beach to Beacon.

“Running kept her in shape,” her daughter said. “It was her thinking time. On runs, she would come up with these really cool ideas. She always made running a priority.”

Tom Carll, 73, also has competed in hundreds of races from 5Ks to marathons, but health problems in recent years have hampered his training and he missed some Beach to Beacon races even as his wife kept the streak going. He had a quadruple bypass in January 2016 and a heart attack last November. He underwent another heart surgery in March.

He finished last year’s race in 1 hour, 40 minutes, 22 seconds. His children say it may be his last year running the Beach to Beacon.

“I’m holding up pretty good. I have some chest pain, but I’m working through it,” he said. “I was emotionally such a disaster. I would get to the point where I couldn’t catch my breath. I was really struggling to hang in there. I’ve had some rough times.”

Carll will again run with his son, Shawn Carll, of New Gloucester, in Saturday’s race. Several other family members will run in the pack. The family will wear bright yellow T-shirts with Sherry Carll’s 2016 bib number 821. The shirts say, “In loving memory.”

Shawn Carll, who has run the Beach to Beacon about a half-dozen times, intends to cross the finish line with his father.

“It’s been a family tradition for years,” the younger Carll said. “We’re running for her. This race was the highlight of her year.”

Deshaies also is running in memory of her mother. This will be her first Beach to Beacon, and she’s nervous.

“My mother inspired me my whole life. I think she would be very proud to see us all running together,” Deshaies said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve done an actual race. I’ll finish it because of her.”

ONE OF JUST 119 LEGACY RUNNERS

An estimated 6,500 runners will make their way across the 6.2-mile course from Crescent Beach to Portland Head Light on Saturday, but only a select number run every year without fail. When she died last year, Sherry Carll was one of just 119 so-called legacy runners or streakers.

Carll ran the first Beach to Beacon 10K in 1998 with her then-10-year-old grandson, Matthew Robertson. Now 29, he is among those traveling to Maine this week to run in her memory.

In the early years, Carll finished the course in 56 or 57 minutes. She was 68 when she ran her 18th Beach to Beacon in 2015 and finished in 1:48:33.

Carll had a hip replacement surgery on June 13, 2016, but still fully expected to be on the course again in August. Her daughter said she timed the surgery so she could run the Beach to Beacon.

But shortly after that surgery, doctors discovered she had a brain tumor. Carll had surgery on July 5 to remove it. Even while she lay in her hospital bed, she had every intention of running the race.

Carll was buried in her 2014 Beach to Beacon runners shirt. An image of her sneakers was etched into the front of her gravestone at Lower Gloucester Cemetery. The back of her gravestone features the iconic image of the lighthouse on the Beach to Beacon logo.

Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

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