WT graduate crosses halfway point to California

Schnatz crosses the Texas border and continues on toward California.
Schnatz crosses the Texas border and continues on toward California.

It was Sunday, and it was cold. Like really cold. Like zero degree windchill cold. The type of cold not a soul wanted to walk in, but the sharp winds whipping through the air and the snow beginning to fall did not stop Shelby Schnatz, West Texas A&M University graduate, from taking on I-27 by foot. She left the parking lot of Hollywood 16 movie theatre, filled with friends and family cheering her on, to begin the last stretch of her transcontinental run to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association.


“I can’t take the day off because people are being diagnosed with muscular dystrophy every single day,” Schnatz said on Facebook. “It’s time to throw on my winter gear [and] use our muscles to strengthen theirs.”


Schnatz embraced the open road in August as she left from New Jersey to head west towards California on her first attempt at a transcontinental run. She planned to be the fourth woman to make this run solo. But plans change.


“It was weird because the day before I left someone offered and initially I was like no I have this all planned to go by myself and have the title for the fourth woman to do it,” Schnatz said. “Then I got there and I was like I really want help now because I was scared, so he ended up driving out there and meeting me.”


The man behind the scenes of this run is Chris Damon. Damon, also a graduate of WT, was working in Lubbock, Texas when offering to travel with Schnatz. Though Schnatz originally declined his offer she said that he gave up a lot to accompany her.


“Although Shelby could have done this completely on her own no doubt, I just wanted to be there for her in any way that I could to make it a little easier on her along the way,” Damon said. “With all the crazy things going on in this world today it never hurts to have someone looking out for you.”


The two travel companions start their day around 7:00 a.m. and Schnatz partakes in a lot of stretching. She has found herself with a case of runner’s knee which is the most common injury to runners.


“You stretch a lot and mainly don’t let it get to you mentally,” Schnatz said. “It’s debilitating mentally . You just got to basically ignore the pain until you’re done for the day. It’s hard to have it heal if you’re on your feet all the time.”


The pair ends their day at roughly 4 p.m. so that they can find a state park to pitch their tent at, and beat the 5 o’clock traffic.


“I’m lucky now that I don’t have to pitch a tent out on the side of the road,” Schnatz said. “That was my biggest fear, that people were going to come up to me and mess with me but we do a lot of camping and sleeping in the car.”


Though crossing into Texas was a major milestone on the run, both Schnatz and Damon said that Pennsylvania was their favorite state to pass through.


“We had the opportunity to see the Gettysburg battlefield as well as Flight 93 memorial which were both so awe inspiring and captivating,” Damon said. “Not to mention the world’s largest wind chime, rocking chair and golf tee. Also, Pennsylvania provided many State Parks which made for great camping with beautiful scenery.”


In addition to all of these scenery sites, Schnatz made a scene for herself on Halloween, determined to still partake in the holiday season. She dressed up as Forrest Gump, the inspiration for her route and her run. Schnatz purchased the outfit at a Goodwill store and her beard at a Halloween shop.


“If you’re a friend of Shelby you know that her favorite person in general is Tom Hanks,” Lindsey Rice, junior Forensic Psychology major and previous soccer teammate, said. “His movies, his quotes, everything about him inspires her, and that was before she even began running at Forest Gump level. The fact that it’s the 20th anniversary of the movie and so many generations adore the film can only help her cause. Not to mention her Gump Halloween costume was one for the books.”


Schnatz and Damon passed through Amarillo, their hometown, in the weeks following the Halloween holiday and plan to travel back to spend Thanksgiving at home. The pair, however, will not travel back for Christmas. While in town, Schnatz was able to celebrate the recent engagement of her close friend Lauren Russell. Russell, like many of her friends and family, has kept a close eye on Schnatz’s run through text messages and her Facebook page.


“For her it’s not just about getting up and running everyday, although I’ve never met anyone who loves running as much as her, it’s about helping others,” Lauren Russell, close friend, said. “She is a light from God and His light shines through her. She has literally saved puppies and prayed over the homeless. All that and running all day, there’s no one like her.”


Schnatz has more than just the MDA on her mind during her run. She’s also stopped to help anyone in need.


“We get the oppurtunity to meet so many people and she never hesitates to show everyone we meet love and compassion,” Damon said. “Any oppurtunity we get to help someone in need we take it. Not to mention the multiple dogs we have found and returned to their homes or to an animal rescue shelter.”