WT graduate runs from New Jersey to California

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Photo courtesy of Shelby Schnatz Schnatz poses with gear before running out of Atlantic City.

Photo courtesy of Shelby Schnatz
Schnatz poses with gear before running out of Atlantic City.

The low hum of the engine and the methodical whooshing as the tires kept traction with the open road, gave Shelby Schnatz the last spark of inspiration she needed as she gazed upon corn fields in Nebraska. The decision was made. She was going to run transcontinental.

“I started talking to my parents about it and of course they were like why would you even want to do that,” Schnatz said. “Everyone finding out was a big step.”

Others responded with a simple “you’re crazy” or “how are you going to do that” to her fast approaching departure date. But she researched and networked and fundraised and embraced the challenge anyway. As a senior in her last semester at West Texas A&M University, Schnatz knew the balance of stress and excitement and reached out to a Facebook group called USA Crossers to help answer the bundle of questions she had. From this site she made connections with Jake Brown, founder of the Bare Sole Project, a non-monetary transcontinental support network, and the whole community of transcontinental runners.

“She had a lot of questions about logistics, networking, gear, etc., so I suggested featuring her on my blog and website to discuss her planning process as it unfolded,” Brown said. “The first article was introductory and addressed common issues faced by transcon runners. We followed up with her guest piece in which she explained how she was preparing to tackle those challenges.”

The anxiety of certain challenges didn’t waver Schnatz’s determination to take on America by foot. According to USAcrossers.com, she is one of a few women to ever make the trek across the U.S. She educated herself on the dangers and prepared accordingly. Taking on a solo run, meaning she will be running without a support vehicle, requires her to be extra vigilant.

“I really listen to my body so I can feel when something is coming on,” Schnatz said. “I try not to be fearful because I know it will plant a seed and feed itself. I don’t feel like I’m scared.”

Schnatz graduated from WTAMU in May of 2014 with a degree in General Studies and is coming back to become a registered dietitian. Nutrition has been a huge aspect in training, and she will stick to eating mostly whole grains, legumes, nuts, chia, fruit and vegetables; basically anything with protein, amino acids and antioxidants while on the road.

Schnatz will be running with 75 pounds worth of gear and additional safety items including a spot beacon, which has a help button and an SOS button that will send GPS coordinates to anyone she has on her immediate contact list as well as the closest emergency locations. She will be running with a stroller that carries all of her equipment. Fire Department No. 4 in Amarillo helped Schnatz modify her stroller by adding reflective tape and tailoring it to her needs.

“It just glides and is perfect,” Schnatz said. “It’s a little hard  only being able to swing one arm instead of two arms because that’s what I’m used to but it’s not that bad especially pushing that much weight.”

A common theme among the transcontinental running community is never running alone, and it even has a hashtag on the USA Crossers Facebook page. They embrace the notion of running for others and for a cause rather than letting the mental strain overtake them.

“If we remember to run for others as well as ourselves, we discover a new strength and incentive to complete and follow through on our goals,” Brown said. “That’s why I was originally drawn to charity work and why I still use running as a catalyst for fundraising and awareness campaigns.”

As an avid runner, Schnatz had often dreamed of following in the footsteps of Forrest Gump and running across America. She took hold of these dreams and focused on using her legs to run for a cause, the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

“A lot of people can’t run or they are bound to a wheelchair and I’m a runner and I just don’t know how they do it,” Schnatz said. “Basically just run for those who can’t. I will use my muscles to strengthen theirs. That’s become the motto and I really like that.”

The goal of the run is to not only raise $10,000 for the disease but to raise awareness as well. Before leaving for her run on Aug. 15, Schnatz had already raised $7,000. She does this through donations as well as sponsorships through businesses. A few of her sponsors include Global Animal Products, Inc., Brown Automotive Group, Jason Chafe State Farm Insurance Agency, Paul Schnatz with Amarillo Parkview Reality, Spira Footware and APS Construction.

“Amarillo is a big small town with people with huge hearts and that’s exactly what Shelby is,” Jason Chafe, Owner and Agent at State Farm Insurance, said. “She’s an inspiration to me and it’s time I give back to the town that’s done so much for me and this is the perfect way to do it.”

Donations made go straight to the organization and a link to the website can be found on Schnatz’s Facbook page, Shelby’s Transcontinental Run.

“People donating is just a small factor,” Chafe said. “People listen here. We tell her you’ve got five people in a State Farm Agency running right beside you.”

The Prairie will be following Schnatz on her journey from New Jersey to California by posting updates to our social media accounts and website.


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