By Cheryl Tamura
SUN Contributing writer

(Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on the Sisters of St. Francis website,

Sister Nicolette Vennaro, OSF, of Syracuse, was looking forward to the thrill of victory with a good finishing time at the 37th Annual Honolulu Marathon on Sunday, Dec. 13. Instead, she completed the race with the “agony of her feet.”

She was at the starting line bright and early at 5 a.m. for the 26.2-mile race that began near Ala Moana Beach Park, continued to Hawaii Kai and ended at Kapiolani Park.

“My feet just gave out,” she said. “I’m used to running 50 miles, but going around Diamond Head, I felt tired and had to sit. I had to keep stopping.”

“The weather was beautiful, and the race was fun,” she added. “It was a good race and finishing is an accomplishment.”

It was that positive attitude and perseverance that buoyed Sister Nicolette’s spirit despite the physical pain, and allowed her to be among the 20,321 finishers.

Sister Nicolette had participated in the Honolulu Marathon in 2004, and was looking forward to making a triumphant comeback. Yet, she still has an enviable track record. To date, she has completed 30 marathons around the country and Canada. Among them are the New York City Knickerbocker 60K, Atlantic City Marathon, Chicago Marathon, Mohawk-Hudson Marathon, Ottawa Marathon, Disney World Marathon, and the Boston Marathon of which she is proudest, completing the race in 3:21:11. She said she also participated in the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. with Oprah Winfrey one year.

She is also celebrating her 50th anniversary as a sister, which would have made a strong finish even sweeter. At 69, Sister Nicolette is an exemplary model of fitness.

“It’s not how old you are, it’s how you feel,” she said.

Sister Nicolette began running at age 40 to improve her health and says she still runs about 10 miles a day and spends about two hours at the gym about two times a week. She never ran in high school; she played basketball instead.

Sister Nicolette, who has been teaching for 48 years, is a third grade teacher at Blessed Sacrament School in Syracuse. She also coaches track and field for students in pre-kindergarten through the sixth grade and oversees an annual drama production with 100 students.

While in Hawaii, Sister Nicolette also went swimming, went to the Polynesian Cultural Center, Aloha Stadium Swap Meet and Dole Plantation and visited with the Sisters of St. Francis.

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