Kerri Nelson Has A No Limits Approach When It Comes To Racing And Life


My guest today is one of those runners that loves racing and has done it all from road, trail, and OCR.

I’ve had the pleasure of coaching her for the past year and a half so I suppose that makes me an enabler of her race shenanigans.

I am looking forward to today’s chat, in person at Walt Disney World, with Kerri Nelson.

Kerri Nelson

Running Not On Her Radar

Kerri Nelson never considered herself a runner for most of her adult life.

Kerri was born with cerebral palsy and was always told while growing up that she didn’t have to do certain physical activities that other kids her age were doing.

It was in 2017 when Kerri decided she wanted to lose some weight in part to help with some issues she was having with her legs.

It didn’t take long before Kerri realized the physical and mental benefits of running.

Kerri skipped over all the shorter distances and instead focused on 26.2.

She first covered the distance doing the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk.

This particular event raises money for cancer research.

A mere 2 months later, Kerri ran her first marathon which took place at Walt Disney World.

Run Disney

Kerri has an affinity for Disney races, but it didn’t take her long to realize that each race had its own unique vibe.

Following her marathon at Disney, Kerri ran the Princess half marathon next.

Kerri is admittedly not a princess type of girl and for various reasons, this was not her favorite race.

Over the years, she has run every Disney race including the Dopey challenge at the beginning of 2020.

Kerri loves the magic of running in the parks.

What people not familiar with the Disney races may not realize is that the majority of each race takes place outside the parks.

Kerri Nelson

A New Challenge

After a few years of running road races, Kerri was introduced to a new type of challenge.

A trainer that worked at the gym she was a member at frequently competed in Spartan races.

Spartan races comprise a variety of distances that include obstacles that the participants must complete.

If the individual can’t complete the obstacle then they must do a set number of burpees as a penalty.

Every year, the trainer put together a team from the gym to compete in a Spartan Sprint race.

Kerri didn’t think she could love anything more than running until she completed her first Spartan.

Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) never got monotonous and provides challenges for an entry-level participant to even the most seasoned pros.

Spartan Specifics

Spartan races offer a variety of distances including the Sprint (5k-ish), Super (10k-ish), Beast (13.1-ish), and Ultra (30-ish).

The distances are never exact and obstacles frequently change.

Kerri enjoys completing the Trifecta when over the course of a weekend she completes 3 different race distances and receives an extra medal.

Kerri recommends the Sprint distance for anyone considering trying a Spartan.

It’s an entry-level race with obstacles that are manageable for most skill levels.

Every Spartan has traditional obstacles that are included in all the races along with various other obstacles that increase in difficulty.

A gauntlet is when 2 obstacles are placed back to back which greatly increases the difficulty and fatigue.

Kerri has found that proper training is key to succeeding in Spartans.

Kerri Nelson

Multi-Faceted Training

OCR races are great for Kerri because being forced to use multiple muscle groups have helped with her cerebral palsy.

She has found that the best ways for her to train include:

  • Be able to run short distances
  • Include short run intervals layered with burpees or other upper body exercises
  • Strength training
  • Get used to stopping and starting during runs while also using multiple muscle groups during the training
  • Include elevation (hills) in training

Each race can vary a lot due to obstacles, weather, and variation in terrain.

Being prepared for a variety of scenarios will help greatly during the race.

Kerri was surprised to find that Spartans have helped her mental fortitude for road races.

An Avid Racer And No Races On The Horizon

One thing that Kerri has loves about racing is that it allows her to not be defined by her disability.

She thrives off of the excitement and ability to push her body to see what she’s capable of.

When Covid struck and all races were canceled, Kerri was devastated.

The cancellation of one race in particular was a hard pill to swallow.

Kerri had been training diligently for months in preparation for her first Spartan Ultra.

She has struggled over the last few months with not completely losing all the fitness she has gained.

Kerri has worked on finding balance during this uncertain time.

She is trying to maintain some of the fitness she has gained while also taking a step back and giving her mind and body a rest.

Kerri Nelson

No Limitations

Kerri, not unlike the rest of us, has often struggled with finding motivation this year.

She completed the Great Race Across Tennessee (GVRAT) along with the NYC virtual marathon in recent months.

At her core, Kerri loves running and training, but she has found that virtuals, in general, don’t excite her.

Her daughter is one of her main motivations, proving that she can still look forward to the future even when it’s uncertain.

Kerri has a goal to continue to strive to be the best version of herself here and now and be ready for races when they do return.

Running has proven to Kerri what she has always believed, she has an ability, not a disability.

Everyone has their own struggles and Keri’s are no different.

The challenge is to not get into a passive mindset, which is easy to do, and remain honest and committed to oneself.


Mentioned In This Episode:

Stay connected with Kerri Nelson by following her on Instagram.


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