Humpday Health: From a cancer diagnosis to the Boston Marathon


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Shawn Wellersdick’s journey into fitness started out just like anyone else.

“My weight got really out of control,” said Wellersdick.

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He started out small, competing in 5K’s and pushing for new goals. He began to lose weight and feel better, graduating to bigger races and higher targets.

“So I signed up for a half marathon and then a marathon and kinda after the half marathon I realized I needed some real help,” Wellersdick said.

Enter Tom Clifford, the founder and coach of Without Limits.

“I met Shawn, he approached me at a race, said ‘I heard you’re the man to come to if I want to get better,'” Clifford said.

He said he is really proud of how far Shawn has come.

“He’s lost an incredible amount of weight, he’s a very communicative athlete, so he’s not afraid to communicate with me and that’s been the biggest success, the reason why he’s successful is his willingness to communicate and do what he’s supposed to do,” Clifford said.

But training has not been Shawn’s only hurdle. A year ago he was diagnosed with HPV positive neck and throat cancer. There’s about a 90% survival rate, but for someone with dreams of qualifying for the Boston Marathon, the diagnosis was a major setback.

Clifford encouraged Shawn to run the Myrtle Beach Marathon just weeks after getting the cancer news.

“I went and did that and I didn’t get my BQ but I had a pretty good race but I had a bunch of mental issues. Head case issues they call it when you run. So I kinda gave up on myself through stress and all that stuff,” Wellersdick said.

But after surgery to remove tumors, about 35 doses of radiation and seven strong doses of Chemo Shawn was back on the track, more determined than ever to qualify for Boston.

“That’s when it really settles in when you’re sitting there with other folks. It’s a big time to reflect and think about the future,” Wellersdick said. “I thought I’d be able to pop right back in with the guys and run and I couldn’t do 800 meters. I couldn’t run half a mile.”

Shawn was able to rely on his running teammates to push him back and in January at the Houston Marathon, he got his Boston Qualification.

“I just ran my paces and I ran the race like they told me to do and everything came together. Finally,” said Wellersdick.

Boston get ready. Shawn Wellersdick is coming for you.