Pain and gain: Brian Sharp’s Turkey Trot journey
Brian Sharp will run his eighth ThunderCloud Subs Turkey Trot this year … all because of ThunderCloud’s egg salad.
Eight years ago — 80 pounds overweight and suffering from a debilitating form of arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis — Brian stopped by his local San Antonio ThunderCloud Subs for a pick-me-up. “The best egg salad around and it’s gotta have Thunder Sauce!” he says.
His rheumatologist had been telling him for years that he needed to exercise. But nothing seemed possible because of his chronic pain. “I thought to myself, ‘Maybe this is the thing,’” he remembers. “I didn’t look up the distance because I was afraid I would talk myself out of it.” Instead, his jitters woke him at 4:30 a.m. on race day and he made his way to the start before sunrise.
When the assembled crowd finally surged forward, Brian took off running, too. “I made it about 50 yards before I was out of breath,” he remembers. “But I felt like all the superheroes, pilgrims, and turkeys who passed me along the route were pulling me forward. I stopped at every water station and walked a lot, but somehow, I finished.”
With that sense of accomplishment, Brian knew running could be the exercise he needed to turn his life around. And he did. In the years since, he has completed 90 running events, including four marathons and 23 half-marathons. He has mentored and coached runners in San Antonio. And he loves it when newbies ask, “So how did you start running?”
“I could tell you,” he always replies. “But why don’t I show you? Let’s go for a run tomorrow.”
Brian is currently training for his longest and most grueling race yet, a 50K ultra run in Big Bend. It’s a distance that once seemed impossible. Diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis at just 23 years old, Brian medically retired from the Air Force because he could no longer meet the stringent physical requirements. His neck and spine had already fused, taking away any range of motion in his upper torso. Over time, most of his joints have fused, and managing the pain and inflammation takes a carefully calculated regimen of medications. “Most days, I’m at a 3 or 4 pain level,” he says, “but on days where it’s a 7 or 8, I can’t move or work.”
Despite the challenges, Brian keeps lacing up his running shoes. “I’m not going to let my disability keep me from doing all the things I want to do,” he says. And at the top of that list is the Turkey Trot. “I feel like I owe ThunderCloud so much. Had they not been doing this event, I might never have gotten on this running journey. Every year, I still feel the same energy and excitement.”