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Running couple’s pastor power

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There was no heroes' welcome when Eldridge and Shannel Burrows completed the Appleby Bermuda Half-Marathon Derby last month.

It took them just under four hours to get to Bernard Park. By the time they got there, the finish line was packed away and the spectators were gone.

Still, they were thrilled. A year ago they wouldn't have imagined it was possible.

“We're normal people,” said Pastor Eldridge. “I have a weakness for Robin Hood nachos and she loves pizza.”

The 33-year-old clocked in at 3:38 and his wife at 3:57. As only a handful of people came after them, they were surprised by their friends' response.

“They said, ‘Wow, you finished!'” he said. “Many people said, ‘I wish I could do that'.”

It was Pastor Shannel, 35, who came up with the idea to start a campaign to get people fit enough to complete the 13-mile race.

“We're calling it ‘Join the Movement',” Pastor Eldridge said. “The goal will be just to get people to finish, not necessarily to win.”

Zumba classes begin next week at West Pembroke Pentecostal Assembly. The couple, who are both pastors there, are hoping to offer different forms of exercise and nutrition classes in the near future.

Pastor Eldridge said fitness isn't something that's normally associated with churches, but it should be.

“Back in the day, churches said you can't drink and you can't smoke, you can't go to the movies, you shouldn't do this or that,” he said. “Because eating was one of the few things we could do, we overdid it sometimes.

“Fitness is also connected with a spiritual connection to God. As you become fitter, your relationship with God might grow. You might be able to pray longer. As a pastor, you might be able to do the ministry longer.”

Pastor Eldridge joined a fitness class with Sharlene Sousa a year ago. His wife, who had been diagnosed with diabetes five years prior, signed up a little later.

“I tricked her into joining,” he said. “I asked her to bring something to my training session. I knew Sharlene would bring her in and she would fall in love with the class.”

Members of both sides of her family have diabetes, Pastor Shannel said. The diagnosis was “discouraging” but medication, exercise and a strict diet helped.

“I did Zumba and walked away the pounds,” she said. “After two years I moved into the pre-diabetic stage, which is better but I got pregnant with our third child and my healthy lifestyle declined.”

A year ago she decided it was time to get serious with her health again. She hasn't gotten her diet 100 per cent right yet, but her sugar levels are better and she has dropped two dress sizes.

Because the couple have three sons — Andrew, 9, Michael, 7, and Matthew, 3 — Pastor Shannel trains in the evenings and Pastor Eldridge in the mornings.

Ms Sousa suggested they run on May 24; they were both taken aback.

“That was five months ago,” said Pastor Eldridge. “We were like no way. We would never be able to do that.

“But if you know her, she is a bull dog and she said ‘Yes, you can'. She pumped us up. I agreed to do it because I thought it would be a big win for the church and for a married couple to do it together.”

Trainer Hafid James took over as their “boss” when they joined The Athletic Club.

The couple did their first race in January, a 10K during Bermuda Race Weekend. It wasn't enough to prepare them for the reality of Bermuda Day. “In the beginning, race officials said everybody who can't run a mile in under seven minutes, move to the back of the pack,” said Pastor Shannel. “I was grateful for that, because I didn't want to get trampled.

“I wasn't there to win anything or make a certain time, I just wanted to finish.”

When everyone started to run, she started fiddling with her music.

“I remember looking back and St John Ambulance was about six feet behind me,” she said.

“I wanted to panic, but I always told myself always run at my own pace. This was about doing the very thing I never thought I would be able to do.”

Pastor Eldridge ran on ahead of her. By the time she hit Harbour Road, she started having doubts. At eight miles, many of the water stations were getting packed up or gone; she kept going.

“I thought I [wasn't] going to be able to do it because it was so humid,” said Pastor Shannel. “Those thoughts kept coming through my mind. But every time that thought hit, I would come up on another group of spectators and they would be cheering me on. Seeing the mile markers on the road was encouraging. When I got to Johnny Barnes' [Crow Lane Roundabout] I was like, I got this.

“I knew there would be other people on the sidelines watching. I knew seeing me, they would be encouraged to do this race next year or in the years to come. I was not the fastest one but to be able to train for it and accomplish it felt so good.”

Added her husband: “The Bermuda people just pulled us along. When we got to the tennis stadium there was this one guy, he might have been an angel. He called out, ‘Remember, if you finish, you win'. That took me to the finish line.”

Their goal is to finish the race in under two hours next May 24.

“We have a year to train,” said Pastor Eldridge.

The first Zumba classes take place at the church on June 24 at 6.30pm and 7.15pm. Admission is $10. Healthy snacks and water will be provided.

For more information call 335-5308 or e-mail elandshannel@hotmail.com

Faith and love: Pastors Eldridge and Shannel Burrows, who both completed the May 24 half-marathon, are getting fit and they want to help others do the same. (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Pastors Eldridge and Shannel Burrows are getting fit and they want to help others do the same. (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Fitness drive: Pastors Eldridge and Shannel Burrows said the support of the crowd kept them going during the May 24 race. (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published June 15, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated June 15, 2016 at 8:35 am)

Running couple’s pastor power

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