Podiatrist Dr. Allan Sherman doesn’t know a stranger. Meeting him at his gym at Preston Road and LBJ, we are hardly able to walk a few feet before he says, “Oh, wait! I want you to meet this guy.” Then a lengthy conversation ensues with each of his friends gushing over Sherman and friendliness. An hour and half later, I leave with a hug from him and more stories about this man who has beat the odds in his athleticism.
As a podiatrist, almost every decent runner in Dallas has come through his office at one time or another. He’s helped all of the top runners perform better through manual handling of their feet and through mental preparation as well.
A true seeker will find the root of something good and worthwhile. He will go back to the original source to find what made something great. In February of 2006, high school senior LOGAN SHERMAN was profiled, interviewed, and photographed for The Phast Times News. He went on to win significant local races from the 800 meters to the ultra-marathon 30 miler. He had joined the pantheon of great runners from this state.
ALLAN SHERMAN is Logan’s dad. Though he doesn’t take credit for how Logan turned out (he’s now a prominent Dallas chiropractor who still runs and wins races), Dr. Sherman does admit to influencing his son.
He also speaks of how to train a flea in a jar to jump only a certain height depending on how high the lid is. He sees his job as showing his patients and friends how to be liberated from the metaphorical lid on the jar they’re in.
Born June 2, 1948, in Brooklyn, Allan Sherman grew up in New Jersey, between East Brunswick and Clifton where he graduated high school. He grew up with severe asthma. “It was like breathing through a straw.” So bad he was unable to do anything active or physical. He grew up sedentary making airplane and car models. One was the Sherman tank. “I thought, ‘Hey, look! They made my very own tank!” Both his parents smoked packs of cigarettes a day.
Allan’s dad, LAWRENCE, was the first of his family to be born in the U.S. Allan’s mom, MURIEL, was a secretary. Allan’s grandparents immigrated from England, Poland, Russia, and Yugoslavia.
His job was to work in the family bakery business in Brooklyn. He’d get up at about 4:30, work at the bakery, then take the bus to school and sleep through his classes. He thought there was little reason for school since he was going to work in the bakery. He didn’t apply himself in high school. It was better to know how to make and serve a great pound cake then learn about geography. Then WWII broke out.
Lawrence volunteered for the Navy as a junior in high school, and was sent to of all places, Texas A&M to be one of the famed Seabee’s. Realizing everything taught to him would be needed, Lawrence graduated 3rd in his class for radio communication and was then sent to Guam. His framed diploma followed him to every job he had during his career after the Navy. He spent most of his life in sales.
He died before his grandson, Logan Sherman, was born. But Logan was given the first letter of his grandfather, Lawrence Sherman. Other similarities would pop up later in Logan’s life.
Having asthma as a kid, Allan Sherman was limited to what he could do. He played hardly any sports. But after he moved to New Jersey from Brooklyn, his friend Kenny Sampson got a weight lifting set. Soon, Allan got one also and began lifting regularly. He could do this because it took very little aerobic power.
Then it was 1961. Allan was in the 7th grade and in 1961 President Kennedy started the President’s Council on Fitness, a program encouraging kids to climb a rope and do many other calisthenics, as well as run. Allan was in the Top 3 in anything involving strength, but was last in the mile.
Through a track coach looking for bodies, Allan joined the track team the next year. He was pushed into the 880 [Before the switch to meters, all running distances in the U.S. were in yards.]. “I was never higher than last,” he says. But, at the end of the year, he again took the President’s fitness test and was 1st in his class. “It was the first time I realized I could go further than the lid,” he says referring to the flea in a jar who thinks his jumping is limited by the lid on the jar. “The lid was higher than I thought,” he says. “I overcame the lid for the first time and saw what was on the other side of the jar. It gave me confidence.”
Growing up during the 60’s, most people smoked. It was in ads on TV, radio, and magazines. And the characters in all the shows smoked, too. So Allan began to smoke as a sophomore in high school with his friends. Whatever fitness he had gained, was now lost.
He entered the University of Akron in 1966. It was the same year his father Lawrence had his first heart attack at the age of 42. (He would later die at 57.) “I realized there was no do-over-button,” Sherman says. Referring to the flea in a jar, “He had created a low lid for his jar. I saw myself going in the same direction.”
It was a year later in 1967 when warning signs appeared for the first time when he noticed he had trouble walking up stairs to class. So he asked a friend, Glen Swearingen, to start working out with him. “I thought we were going to do weights like before.” Instead, it was suggested they run a mile before the work out. “Why would I do that again?” Allan thought.
Remember, at this time there were no running shoes. Everyone wore the same Converse high tops. Allan only made it a lap and a half.
But the group continued to meet up with the same protocol, running a mile before the work out. Eventually, Allan worked up to 2 and a half laps. In time, Swearingen and others who had joined them over time, stopped coming. Allan didn’t relinquish the challenge to run four laps of the track without stopping. Then, when he put out his last cigarette, he made a commitment and has been running ever since.
He noticed his lungs improving, his waist line getting smaller, his heart rate going down, and best of all, “I could focus better in school. Running made me a better student.” He says this was the second time he noticed the lid was off the jar. “But, I had no interest in putting the lid back on.”
It was on a beautiful spring day when he decided to go for a barefoot run. He ended up going to the hospital and was introduced to podiatry. He committed four more years to podiatry school. This was before podiatry was involved in sports medicine.
He noticed a correlation when he experienced his first injury, shin splints. Doctors suggested trying to modify his sneaker. And he saw the relationship between the two: injury and footwear. After finishing school, he went to surgery school making inserts for shoes, otherwise known as, orthotics.
This is the time of author and running doctor George Sheehan who pushed podiatry into sports medicine. Allan remembers it was he who said, “Never trust a thought you have while sitting still.”
The world was changing. The Boston Marathon was starting to attract crowds over 1,000 people for the first time. Bill Rogers and Frank Shorter were celebrities thanks to their marathon wins. Races of all distances were popping up all over the country. The U.S. was experiencing a running boom, the likes of which have never been seen since.
After his residency, Allan opened his practice in Dallas in 1975. This was before Luke’s, The Jogger, Athletic Supply, or Pheidippides running stores. [Note: only Luke’s exists today.] Meanwhile, Allan was running 20-30 miles per week. “I’m not sure where I bought shoes from.”
In 1978, Allan was close to his grandfather, MILTON, on his mother’s side. He was the only athlete Allan knew. As a way of integrating with the other kids, he would run track, winning several medals. In the early 1900’s, he even tried running the New York City Marathon on a much different course than it is run today. Thinking of a spike for his shoes, he taped a woman’s heel to his foot. He got horrible blisters and crawled to a hospital. Later, he went on to play semi-pro baseball. When Milton was 83, he came to visit Allan. He had colon cancer and died in Allan’s house during his stay.
After the body was taken away, Allan decided to run the next Dallas White Rock Marathon and dedicate it to his grandfather. Allan had never run more than five miles at that point. There were no clubs back then, either. Runners went to White Rock Lake and met at Big Thicket Cabin on the east side. The runners would mingle, meet each other, and paired off with matching pace and distance. Allan’s first run out there was with DON MATHIS, a PE teacher at Eastfield College. “He taught me how to run. He ran different. He ran very steady from the very beginning. Every mile was the same. I struggled to stay up with him.”
He and Mathis ran the 1978 CCCD Half Marathon (It would later become the DRC Half Marathon.). Allan finished in a very respectable 1 hour, 30 minutes. Optimistic, he signed up for the marathon. On race day, conditions were horrible with the temperature in the 80’s and so foggy one couldn’t see the lake. The course was two loops of White Rock Lake plus some extra. Allan finished in 3:28, while Mathis ran 2:55. “I had no intention of ever running another one,” he says. But then he met ROGER MATHIS (no relation) at Barbecs. Roger suggested they do the Tulsa Marathon. Allan was game.
Five laps of Mohawk Park on a very windy and cold day, Allan ran 3:11. “Now I got cocky!” He began toying with the idea of running three hours flat at New York City. He signed up, trained, and went, but was disappointed with his worse marathon ever, 4:46. In response, his pals said, let’s do White Rock again. This was 1979, and Allan ran 3:02. “And I felt pretty darn good!”
At a post-race party where Arthur Lydiard was a guest, the host was boastful of his 2:32, declaring who would and who wouldn’t qualify for the Boston Marathon. The man was only a psychiatrist who may have had too much to drink. He wife was a patient of Allan’s. While belittling another runner for his time, Allan stepped in to defend the runner. The host told Allan he would never run the 2:50 qualifying time needed to get to Boston. Allan challenged him with a bet. If Allan didn’t make it, he would have to pay for the host and his wife’s trip to the Boston Marathon. But, if Allan did run a 2:50 or better, the host would have to go to church every Sunday for a year.
Allan was on fire. He began running with CHOCK BAILEY, who would later on become the White Rock Marathon board president. “I couldn’t stay up with him,” Allan declares. When they went to Flag Pole Hill for strength building, they would start at the base of Flag Pole Hill and run to Church Road, two miles each way of some nasty hills. They did three or four of those repeats making them strong as nails.
Allan set his sights on the Amarillo Fun Festival after another friend PAUL LAKE said he’d like to go also. Allan’s goal was 3:00. In the final mile of the race, going with all he had, Allan was passed by runner like he was standing still. The runner’s name was DAVID KNUCKLE, who would go on to be Dallas’ police chief. Allan’s finish time was 3:05.
Together with friends, Allan and others trained through the summer of 1980, Dallas’ hottest summer on record with the most 100 degree days. The training in those conditions made Allan even stronger, he felt. He traveled to the Nike Oregon Track Club Marathon and finished on the track with a 2:52. He missed qualifying by two minutes. “I thought the lid was way too heavy to get off.”
Bailey suggested they run the St. George Marathon. But one month before the race, Allan badly twisted his ankle, and was unable to walk. He got himself to the Cooper Clinic and put himself on a bike. He purposely did extremely hard workouts on the bike to compensate for the running he was missing. “I’d bust my butt on the bike,” he says. The week of the marathon, he tested it and felt very good.
“I ran step by step with Chock for the first 20 miles. Chock knew how to talk to you.” At the crest of a hill at Mile 20, a man yelling out predicted finish times yelled out 2:52 as Allan and Chock passed. Allan turned his head toward Chock and said, “I’ll see you later.” “I put my head down for the last 10K. I was focused on pace.” At Mile 26, the prediction was 2:50. Allan’s official time was 2:48:59, a PR. He finished 60th overall. The Psychiatrist ended up going to church for a couple of months, then divorced his wife.
Doing the White Rock Marathon that same year, Allan ran 2:58 for his third marathon in a year under three hours. Two months later he ran Ft. Worth’s Cowtown in 1981. At the Cooper Clinic that October, Allan entered a contest about who could run the most miles for the month. Allan won with 506.
The word “jogging” hadn’t been invented yet along with many of the conveniences runners now enjoy. That was all yet to come. In the meantime, runners of this era didn’t know how bad they had it. On the other hand, not having such conveniences appeared to make the runners more hardy. There was certainly a running boom going on nation-wide.
But Allan read Dr. Kenneth Cooper’s book “Aerobics.” The book defined the era. After he read it, Allan commented why it was so important. “All that he said had merit to it.” It is widely accepted as one of the catalysts of the running boom. Cooper would go on to publish an additional 22 books.
In 1982, he met ED JACKSON. Jackson had this wild idea of running 50 miles on his 50th birthday at Bachman Lake. That’s 16.5 laps of the lake. Along with Jackson and a small clutch of die-hards, Allan ran his first of 15 50 milers in a row. It was part of a pattern for him. For those 15 years he would run the White Rock marathon in December, the Jackson 5-0 50 miler in January, and the Ft. Worth Cowtown Marathon in February.
On or about his 17th White Rock Marathon, Allan came upon his friend Paul Lake standing alongside the road at Big Thick Cabin on the east side of White Rock Lake. Paul had run The Amarillo Fun Festival Marathon with Allan. Suddenly it dawned on Allan, this wasn’t fun anymore, and stopped. That was it. The end.
Allan had already started another project that would take him up to present day: logging his miles. In 1980, he joined the Cooper Clinic which was very big on the runners logging their miles. Allan had never done this before. One day a neighbor noticed Allan and commented he was running every day. Sure enough, when he went and checked he had run for 240 days consecutively. “Well, I’ll try for 300,” he thought. But then went to 365, and then 400. “As I got down the road I’d think about the ages,” that corresponded to his consecutive days of running. This includes the fall of the Roman Empire (476), the Dark Ages (the 6th to 13th centuries), then American History.
Building up the number of days through history, he started getting more personal. His dad’s birth year, his own birth year (1948), when he graduated high school (1966), then it was the years his kids were born. “It’s been my best running. And better for the last 20 years with my wife. As of May 24, he had run 2,050 consecutive days. His goal now is 2,150 for baseball’s Lou Gehrig to equal the number of games he played before retiring. Allan has never run less than four miles, and averages over 45 miles per week.
The number of miles he has logged since 1980 when he joined the Cooper Clinic: 82,444.
“My job as a podiatrist is to help my patients go beyond their lid. At one time it was myself. Now it is more important I help my patients to run. What makes it fun for me is to remove or raise the lid for as many of my patients as I can.”
He says his life changed in two ways. One, when he stopped being competitive; two, when his son Logan came to live with him. “He was 9 ½ years old, overweight, and had low self-esteem. When he came, my whole life changed. Every day after school, I’d take him to Prestonwood ice rink and let him skate. Where I used to go to races, now I spent my time with him.”
Allan started a friendship with North Texas University running coach JOHN MCKENZIE. John invited him to help with injuries on the track team. John was the first track coach at JJ Pearce High School before going to North TX. Later on, Logan would attend JJ Pearce.
When Logan was in 7th grade he decided to run track. By the time he was a Freshmn, Logan was playing varsity hockey. He was a natural athlete, his dad said. The next person in Logan’s life was TERRY JESSUP and the Metroplex striders. Logan won most of his races. He’s the only one in the city of Richardson to have gone to state in cross country and track all four years.
Terry called up Allan and asked him to come by Luke’s to educate Allan on shoes to help North Texas. “Terry is very scientific, technical.” In 2000, Luke’s was looking for a podiatrist. As Logan was getting more known in the running community, his dad was getting less known.
“It was through Logan and Logan’s running I got involved with Luke’s, as Logan is becoming the face of sports medicine in Dallas, I was becoming less. Logan has taught me a lot more tools in my practice.
Shortly after getting on with Luke’s, the CEO of Dougherty’s asked if he would consider consulting at Dougherty’s on Tuesdays. “It’s totally different customers.” And just like for Luke’s, he does it for free.
His pet peeve is author Christopher McDougal’s book “Born To Run,” and minimalist shoes. As if he had re-invented the wheel, McDougal sold an entire generation on zero heel shoes. “The injury rate when I started in podiatry in 1975 was 40-50%. Injury rate has stayed the same [despite this modification in shoes].” Allan does admit shoes have evolved, but not always for the better.
“I look at shoes has a scientist, the stress in a runner’s shoe.” He asks why are people’s times getting slower even though their shoes are better? “It’s like solving an algebraic equation,” he says. “Both sides have to be equal. If you don’t treat the mechanical cause, you move the stress. You have to keep the stress equal on both sides of the equation. I’ve changed as shoes have changed. That’s why I always ask patients to bring old shoes to see their wear patterns. I’m interested in your basic form.”
Allan was talked into to an overnight bike trip DAN MILLET used to host twice a year for students. Allan went wearing only running shorts. It was his friend Millet who locally moved triathlons out of swimming pools and into open water with the advent of the iconic President’s Triathlon held each June at Lake Lavon. The distances were 1 ½ miles in the water, 43 miles on the bike, then 10 miles running. Allan entered having only swum a few laps in the Cooper Clinic pool. He got through the swim and on to the bike only to have the seat slip down as soon as he mounted the bike. After 43 miles, he was too cramped up to run very well.
Jack 50 7:18
Logan was inducted into JJ Pearce Hall of Fame recently, but was never told about his grandfather. On his own, Logan decided he would attend Texas A&M, the same school as his grandfather. And just like his grandfather, they both received good grades. This past Christmas Allan told Logan about his similarities to LAWRENCE SHERMAN. Allan gave Logan Lawrence’s diploma signed February 28, 1944. Logan’s birthday is February 28, 1986.
On his parenting, Allan says of Logan, “It’s not me that made him exceptional. It’s him that made him exceptional.”
State of Running
Allan has some helpful hints to make the Dallas White Rock Marathon better. But first sites an inequity.
“We pay money for Kenyans to come race the Dallas White Rock Marathon, but it’s not a level playing field.” He believes that the local runners working 40-50 hours per week don’t have a chance against them. For one, the Kenyans all train together. The local runner usually trains solo because there are so few at his level to train with daily.
“Why isn’t the community coming out to cheer the local people instead of people we don’t know the name of who come in for one day and leave. You don’t see the Kenyans at Tom Thumb shopping.”
People would be hard pressed to name the last few White Rock Marathon winners, Allan points out. During his time, he could name most of the people who have won in the past.
“Today, if you were to ask who won the last White Rock Marathon, I doubt they would know without looking it up. They’re losing community interest. We don’t know and don’t care who these people are that won. People coming in we don’t know their names, don’t know those people. We might see them at the expo. We’re certainly not going to see them out on the course. We don’t share much of a connection with the world class runner. The community has lost interest and pride in the runners and the race. The race has become less interesting since they brought the pro runners. This discourages the local runner. “One time, Logan was going to run the marathon for the first time. Race Director MARCUS GRUNEWALD told me the Kenyans work together against whoever’s running. They use tactics to win as much money as they can. They work together, they train together. They’ll sacrifice a runner to go out strong. It was Logan running against the Kenyans. The local runner doesn’t have that advantage. It takes away from the local interest. “I would suggest when we ask for Kenyans to come, ask for only one. One male, one female. But not six, seven, or eight that can form a pack. It’s not fair against the local runner. Invite one, not a pack. Pick American runners of the same caliber. Scott McPherson is someone local and could probably win.” Making a valid point, he points out that the pro runners from Africa that are selected to run in Dallas, train together in Albuquerque, New Mexico at altitude. The local runner can’t possibly compete against such odds.
Allan also suggests a different but viable route for the marathon. Start north and follow the DART line. Besides involving more of the community, it would be essentially a downhill course.
He mentions the pride local runners have of making the Top 100-200 at the marathon in the Dallas Morning News. But even that’s changed. “The Dallas Morning News hardly ever covers the races anymore. And only list the top age winner. I think it would bring in more human interest if they listed the Top three in each age group like they used to. There’s generally little written about people in the running community.
“Before DMN running columnist DEBBIE FETTERMAN, there were stories about people in our running community. Now, it’s almost a slap in the face. The DMN is getting thinner and thinner. I don’t want to read about the Cowboys every day. It’s good to talk about the Cowboys. But it’s also good to mention the winner of that weekend’s race. You’d sell more community fitness.” He speaks about the friendly atmosphere at his practice. “I believe in treating everyone like family. The office can be extremely professional or we can enjoy ourselves.”
HEATHER has been his wife of 22 years. It was odd how they met. Larry North had a call-in radio show many years and had invited Allan to the show. Heather called in asking, “I have a bad knot on my foot.” “I gave her a list of alternatives,” Allan says. “Three months later I was at the Cooper Clinic restaurant. Heather (maiden name: Irby) was being interviewed by a friend of his, MEL. After she was gone, Allan asked about her. Mel offered to call her up and ask her out for Allan. Their first date was April Fool’s Day at Houston’s 23 years ago. They married after about a year of dating. “She’s my longest lasting running partner. When we run together, we just chatter. There’s no interference. No cell phones. It allows us to discuss our issues. She’s my cutest running partner, best friend.”
Running is a gift, he says. It doesn’t make any difference if you run 5:00 or 10:00 per mile. A running friend of his named GEORGE would point out the wildlife at White Rock Lake as they ran. “He still went to White Rock Lake to walk or jog until he was in a wheel chair. Being out there is a gift. You do have a lid, but keep the lid from coming down any more than you have to. You don’t have to accept the lid. You need to keep it up. There are many ways to escape that jar.”