Going the Distance

The Advocate's new resident marathoner shares the intricacies and the joys of training for the Los Angeles Marathon (his fourth!) as an HIV positive man.

BY Shawnn Slaughter

November 16 2007 12:00 AM ET

People ask me why
I train for and run in marathons. My reply is,
“Because I can.”

I’m Shawnn
Slaughter, a 43-year-old single man and native Las Vegas
resident. I am a 22 year survivor of HIV. This marathon is a
testament to my survival and ability to bring
awareness of and assistance to people living with HIV.
That’s why I do it. Because I can.

I'm a substitute
teacher working mostly with emotionally challenged and
autistic children -- it’s a great challenge but I
love my job. I am also a versatile artist. Among other
talents, I have produced and recorded a solo album,
appeared in numerous community theater and professional
productions, and appeared in two long-running Las Vegas
comedy reviews. Most recently I dabbled in narrative
stand-up comedy in the Un-Cab Lab Show at the M-Bar in
Hollywood.

Experience as a Runner

In January 2006,
I began training for my first 26.2-miler, the San
Francisco Marathon with the National AIDS Marathon Program.
Before I started conditioning, I had been on
testosterone replacement therapy for three years. My
doctor stopped the treatment because he felt I was on it
too long and prolonged use could cause stroke or
cancer…like I need that, too. I thought if I
did something physical, I could jump start my
testosterone. In the lobby of the doctor’s office was
a display about the National AIDS Marathon Program. My
piqued interest became a running obsession.

I lived in Big
Bear, Calif. when I started training for my first race. I
would drive west about 100 miles to Los Angeles on Friday to
train the next morning. Then I’d turn around
and come home on Saturday afternoon.

In the middle of
my training season, I moved back to Las Vegas, but
continued to go back and forth to L.A. every other week. In
July of 2006, I completed the San Francisco Marathon
in six hours, two minutes and four seconds. My t-cells
were 108 and my hypothesis was right: my testosterone
levels were normal. Wearing my medal around my neck was
worth the time and effort.

Tags: Sports

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