Molly Sheridan was 48 years old in 2004 when a friend suggested she join her to run the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.
Sheridan never had run a marathon before. She wasn’t even a runner.
“I said no. Don’t people get sweaty? It was an emphatic no. She said it was fun. How could fun and marathon be in the same sentence and make sense?”
But a funny thing happened that night. Sheridan couldn’t sleep. “I was haunted.”
Sheridan phoned her gal pal back. That marathon race? Sheridan said she was all in. It would be a girls weekend, with a marathon thrown in for good measure.
Sheridan finished the 26.2-mile route that snaked around the landmarks of the nation’s capital. She was hooked on running. She sent a photo of herself finishing the marathon to her doctor, who had advised against her running a marathon, saying she was too old.
Running her maiden marathon “was the turning point for me,” Sheridan said.
Five years later, in 2009, Sheridan parlayed her love for running into launching a race-organizing business — Summerlin-based Desert Sky Adventures.
The race management business stages its own races, while also getting hired by local nonprofit organizations to stage charity fundraisers.
Sheridan’s staff includes her daughter, Taylor, who is a University of Nevada, Las Vegas business graduate, and six part-timers, who do everything from obtaining government permits to plotting the courses to promoting the races. Her husband, Bill Andrews, an anti-aging researcher, is also an avid ultramarathoner.
Sheridan said she and her daughter run at 4 a.m. when the temperatures are cool and it’s quiet — a perfect time to discuss race planning and work assignments.
Her company’s next race is the Roadrunner 4th of July 5K Blast at the Roadrunner Saloon in Spring Valley. The race will be on the neighboring Western Beltway Trail.
Her company’s biggest new race event will be Oct. 18 and 19 when the inaugural Las Vegas Ultra Marathon 150K Race and Relay is held at Floyd Lamb Park at Tule Springs to celebrate Nevada’s 150th birthday.
When Sheridan is not putting on races, she’s running them. The mother of three who described herself as “sluggish” before she ran her first marathon has run more than 45 ultramarathons, including the Marathon Des Sables, a 150-mile race through the Sahara Desert, and the Badwater Ultramarathon, a 135-mile race through Death Valley to Mount Whitney.
She’s also the first American woman to finish a 138-mile run through the Himalayas over two peaks of 18,000 feet in a race called “La Ultra — The High.”
Sheridan this year wrote a book, “Running Past Midnight,” to share the stories behind her epic runs.
Sheridan was born in St. Louis (one of 12 kids), and grew up in Huntington Beach, Calif. She said she was never an athlete growing up or even as a young adult.
The self-proclaimed nomad moved to Anchorage, Alaska, at 19 for an electrocardiogram tech job before moving a year later to Seattle, where she spent eight years working as a road surveyor.
Her employer, URS engineering, had an opening in Las Vegas, so Sheridan took the job, moving to the valley in 1982. She spent about a decade in engineering, including a contracted job buying coal from mines in Colorado and Utah for Nevada Power Co.. Then she spent more than 10 years as an event planner and personal assistant for the Houssels family. The Houssels family owned several hotel-casinos such as the Showboat; Sheridan ran their charitable events.
Little did Sheridan know that putting on events for the Houssels family was giving her the on-the-job experience for her future race management company.
With a $14,500 loan from the Houssels family to buy equipment, Sheridan launched her business after she ran her first endurance race — the Rio Del Lago 100-miler. The race director called it quits, and the event ended before Sheridan inherited the race five years ago.
“It kind of just ended up in my lap,” she said.
Her busiest year was 2012, when her company staged 17 races.
“It got a little crazy,” Sheridan said.
Now, she is looking to expand from her home office.
“We’re bursting at the seams.”
Question: What was it like training for your first marathon at 48 when you had no running experience at all?
Answer: I took seven months to train. I knew nobody who ran. I didn’t know. I was dying on the sidewalks of Las Vegas. I was really a total novice. I was four weeks in, and my ankle hurt. I got a stress fracture. My doctor said I was too old. Nobody ever told me I was too old. I got pissed. I went home and said, “Gosh, am I too old?” He was the first person who said I was too old. The rebel in me said I will prove him wrong. I learned pool running online and did that for six weeks … I was horrified he would tell people the same thing (that they are too old). I sent the pool running info to the doctor.
Question: How did you do in your first marathon? What did you learn from it?
Answer: Bodies can do so much more than you think. You’d better not be listening to bad advice.
Question: What was it like putting on your first races in Las Vegas?
Answer: It was grass roots. I had a business partner, but he had a different vision and ideas.
Question: Did your event experience with the Houssels family help you with your race management career?
Answer: It wasn’t any different. I was throwing huge balls. We had big celebrities like Joan Collins. Instead of throwing a ball, I was throwing an outdoor, recreational party for the community.
Question: What advice do you have for people who want to transition their personal passion into a business?
Answer: Don’t have a partner. Be in control of your vision and dream. Don’t do it unless you are willing to give it your all. It’s not about the money at first. It can’t be. You have to know that you are starting at the bottom and building your empire. Be prepared for tough times and setbacks. Not everyone is going to understand your vision. But if you are considering the transition, do it.
Question: Were you concerned that making it also into a business would take away from the joy you get from running?
Answer: The joy of running has only increased for me. I get immense satisfaction helping that new person experience running or walking their first event. It changes peoples lives for the better. I want the whole world to move, walk and run for their mental, physical and spiritual well-being.
Contact reporter Alan Snel at 702-387-5273 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @BicycleManSnel on Twitter.