Many of us know Sharon Abbott best for her monthly “Sharon’s Box” column in the Front Runner newsletter.
That provocative title is hardly surprising once you know that Sharon is a doctor of sociology, specializing in human sexuality. She can quickly rattle off the benefits of male circumcision in fighting AIDS in Africa and is happy to share with you highlights of her summer spent in an S&M dungeon in San Francisco when she was training (as a sociologist, not a dominatrix).
We have her keen interest in the sociology of sexuality to thank for landing her, however circuitously, in our FRNY lap.
Sharon got her PhD from Indiana University in 1997 and then became a professor, first at Wittenberg University in Ohio, then at Fairfield University in Connecticut. (She moved to Brooklyn in 2003 with her then partner, preferring to reverse commute to Connecticut as needed.)
But she eventually tired of teaching, which she called “dreadful,” and quit her job at Fairfield in 2005, taking a break before she found her true calling in non profit work. She landed a job in AIDS prevention research at an NGO, Population Council, where the Massachusetts-native has worked since 2006. Her job has taken her to South Africa repeatedly and she expects to spend a good chunk of 2010 in Zambia and India.
Her career is not the only area of her life where Sharon bloomed late. Sharon ran her first ever mile at the ripe age of 37.
“I had a shit of a time,” she said of her breakup with her partner in 2006, among other woes rocking her personal life. And with some prodding from friends, running turned out to be a balm.
One of her closest friends who saw her through that dark period, Front Runner Karen Stevenson, gave her two choices.
“Either I could get really fat and cry and be bitter, or I could run,” Sharon said. So she and Karen began running together in Brooklyn, though Sharon struggled her first time out in Prospect Park. “I ran a mile and thought I was going to die.”
But she quickly found her running legs. Sharon made her New York Road Runner debut at the Dash and Splash 5-miler in July 2006 in just over 50 minutes and caught the running bug.
Sharon’s friends then challenged her to run a full marathon sometime in the following year. She did, completing the Tampa Marathon in February 2007 in just under 4 hours, barely eight months after she began running at all.
So in preparation for that run, Sharon started running with FRNY in late 2006, running with stalwarts such as Jen Ishii who has been known to inspire a Front Runner or two to up her game.
At a women’s party soon after, Front Runner Julie Delaurier volunteered Molly Berliss and Kerstin Marx among others to run with Sharon and get her out on the road, giving her the support she was seeking to develop her abilities.
Thus a Front Runner was born.
Despite a work schedule and travel that are making running tougher to fit into her routine, Sharon is hoping to return to her form in 2007 when she ran her fast pace ever. She ran the 5-miler Father’s Day race that year at an average pace of 8 minutes and 9 seconds per mile, in her honor of her Dad, who the previous year had pushed back prostate cancer.
Sharon, who is of French Canadian and Nova Scotia descent, plans to run the New York Marathon in 2010 and continue running half marathons, her favorite distance. She hopes to improve on her first New York marathon, run in 2008, when she fell just short of a PR in a way only Sharon can: the exhausted Sharon took a four-minute break at Mile 22 in Harlem to munch on some oranges with a pal, unaware of how closely she was to matching her Tampa marathon. She ended up finishing the race only 4 minutes slower than her first marathon
“I don’t plan to stop for oranges again,” she said of her next New York marathon in November.
Written by Phil Wahba