In 2013 when Shari Manski began training for her first marathon, she never imagined that running would turn into a family sport. Over the years growing up in Pavilion Township, the Manski kids have participated in many local sporting activities – hockey, baseball, and golf, to name a few. However, adding competitive running to the list was a family challenge that only this mom could dream up.
Over the past seven years, Shari, now 55, has been fortunate to have her family join in the excitement of running. Children John C, 36; Scott, 27; Sarah, 25; Brett, 18; and their father, John W, 60, continue to be inspired by Shari’s focus and joy of running. Shari’s encouragement comes with the phrase, “Finish, don’t be last, and don’t get injured.” The Manski family has been able to stay healthy and fit through running while ultimately enjoying the fun of running together.
In January 2014, Shari, John W., John C., Scott, and Sarah completed the Walt Disney World Marathon near Orlando, Fla. Earning their first Disney Medal inspired them to return to Florida in January 2015 to compete in the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. During the Marathon Weekend, runners are eligible to compete in the Goofy Challenge, a half-marathon on Saturday and a marathon on Sunday, as well as the Dopey Challenge where runners must complete four races in four straight days – 5K, 10K, half-marathon, and marathon, for a total of 48.6 miles. The end result for completing what Disney World calls “the ultimate endurance challenge” is the receipt of six specially crafted Disney medals.
In 2015, due to age restrictions, Brett, then 13, was only eligible to run the 5K and 10K, with a promise from his parents to return to Disney World when Brett turned 18. This January, five years later, the Manski family returned to Florida to complete the Dopey Races – again! Although Scott and Sarah were unable to compete due to graduate school commitments, they, along with their brother, Joseph, 35, and grandmother, Kate Scandlon, were at home cheering for family members Shari, John W., John C., and of course, Brett, as he completed his first Dopey Race.
The first two races, 5K and 10K, were like practice runs for the Manski family. With the half-marathon more of a challenge because of the added distance, it was the marathon that proved to be exceptionally challenging this year. During the race, the Michigan family didn’t realize that Orlando experienced a record high temperature of 85 degrees on marathon Sunday. The temperatures were far different than the Michigan practice temperatures of 30 degrees. Even with the unusually high temperatures, race volunteers ensured there was plenty of water and nutrients available as the Dopey runners made their way through the four parks of Walt Disney World. Brett, Shari, John C., and John W. were all “race finishers” of the 2020 Dopey Challenge.
In addition to the Dopey Challenge, the Manski family enjoys competing in Run Disney races on a regular basis. Following their first Dopey in 2015, the six Manski runners completed the Dumbo Challenge in Anaheim, Calif. at Disneyland. By completing a half-marathon in both Disney World and Disneyland in the same year, each Manski family member earned a Coast-to-Coast medal which features Walt Disney on a diamond-shaped medal. In memory of the special event, Scott created a YouTube video featuring the Manski family as they ran in Disneyland and through Anaheim.
In November 2016, Shari, John W., John C., Scott, Sarah, and Brett competed in the Wine ‘n Dine at Walt Disney World. The Wine ‘n Dine is a three-race event weekend (5K, 10K, and half-marathon) where runners are invited to a special Epcot runner event featuring wine tasting and gourmet appetizers following the races. In May 2017 Shari and John C., competed in Star Wars Weekend – the Dark Side in which runners compete in a 5K, 10K, and half-marathon. In February 2018, Shari, Sarah, and friend Brittany Heather traveled to Walt Disney World for the Princess Runs. The three-race event is known for the many runners who dress in Disney Princess-themed costumes as they run through the Magic Kingdom.
What’s the next Disney Race for the Manski family? Even on the plane ride back to Michigan from the Dopey Race in January, the Manski family was talking about scheduling another Wine ‘n Dine weekend at Disney World.
John and Shari came to this area in 1986 from Pennsylvania. John, a director at Pfizer, retired in December. Shari works for Pfizer in the Audits and Inspections Team. The Manski children have attended Vicksburg Community Schools. VHS graduates John C. (2002), Joseph (2003), Scott (2011), Sarah (2012) will have the opportunity to watch their youngest brother, Brett, graduate from VHS in May. Brett is a drum major for the VHS Big Red Machine, an Eagle Scout and a member of the VHS Golf Team.
John C., a Grand Valley State University graduate, is an aseptic operator at Pfizer who lives in Portage. Joseph, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, lives in Kalamazoo and hires his own staff for personal support. Scott, who will be completing his PhD graduate studies in statistics at MSU this spring, is a Kalamazoo College graduate. Sarah, who completed her master’s degree in mathematics at Dartmouth, is also a graduate student at MSU in statistics. She is also a graduate of Kalamazoo College. Brett is undecided on which college he will be attending although K-College and MSU are near the top of his list.