WT grad overcomes obstacles in run across U.S.

Shelby runs the final stretch of her route and heads toward the beach to run into the Pacific Ocean.
Shelby runs the final stretch of her route and heads toward the beach to run into the Pacific Ocean.

Shelby Schnatz emerged with an entourage of sup­porters and her eyes set only on one thing, the Pacific Ocean. She wanted to feel the sand and the water and the sun. She had been running for 146 days, a total of 2, 850 miles. Her determination trans­formed into elation as the pier came into view and a smile slid across her face. It was morning on Jan. 11 and she had made it.


Days later, after crossing the United States by foot and rais­ing more than $10,400 for the Muscular Dystrophy Associa­tion, she posted a message to Facebook that would recast her run to be more monumental than she had originally thought.


“I have said this over a thou­sand times, but this is the first time I am hesitant to state the simple sentence that I have been repeating for the past three years. Hi, my name is Shelby and I am an alcoholic,” she typed. “I am not revealing this to be scolded nor to seek empathy; I want to be a glimpse of hope for the alcoholic/addict that is still suffering. You are not alone.”


Run for those who can’t. Those had been the words Shelby carried with her as mo­tivation throughout her jour­ney. When her feet met the Pacific Ocean and a double rainbow broke through the clouds, Shelby realized she was running for two diseases.


“The reason I decided to tell everyone was because I wanted other alcoholics and people to know it’s okay,” she said. “It’s more of a chemical imbalance than it is a weakness. I didn’t ask for it. They’re not asking for it. But I feel like by me com­ing out and telling people that I’m sober and that I’ve suffered from alcoholism and addiction to drugs that it will give other people the hope and courage to come out and tell people.”


Shelby knew that it was go­ing to be hard to be on the road for months on end. Temptation would be around every corner and in every new city she passed through, but she continued to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Because all AA meet­ings are structured the same, she was able to provide herself a sense of familiarity and stabil­ity. But dealing with alcoholism needs more than just support from strangers; it needs family.


“She realized she had a prob­lem, and she fixed [it], and is still fixing it,” Caleb Schnatz, Shelby’s brother, said. “I think when she runs she is happiest.”


Shelby faced other obsta­cles on her run as well. She battled an injury most com­monly known as runners knee that required her to walk parts of her route while her injury healed and rotate through sev­en different pairs of running shoes to better accommodate the pressure her knees felt.


She also had to forfeit the Christmas holiday at home with her family, the first Christmas she has ever spent away from them. It was a first for her safety vehicle driver, Chris Damon, as well. The two decided to make the most of it and venture out of their normal Christmas tradi­tions and go hot tubing instead.


“Being away from family over the holidays was something nei­ther of us had ever experienced,” Chris said. “We both wished we could be home to celebrate with our loved ones, but on the other hand it was awesome to experience Christmas in a completely different setting.”


She was able to take a de­tour to participate in a Dal­las Marathon with her fa­ther while Chris attended his sister’s college graduation.


Both Shelby and Chris are on the job hunt now that the run is over. Shelby hopes to pursue an additional bachelor’s degree in nutrition and Chris is looking at Colorado as a future home state.