Marathon man runs for the social of itArea News
-- As a small-framed high school student who played in the band, local running man Steve Schroeder never imagined himself doing any type of sports, so even he feels surprised that he’s finished 135 marathons. And by the way, he turns 70 this year.
By: Debbie Griffin , Pierce County Herald
As a small-framed high school student who played in the band, local running man Steve Schroeder never imagined himself doing any type of sports, so even he feels surprised that he’s finished 135 marathons. And by the way, he turns 70 this year.
“I guess it’s important to note that as a youth, I did nothing athletic,” said Schroeder.
He moved to River Falls in 1989 with his wife of 48 years, Vicky, and the couple has two adult daughters and four grandchildren. He works in downtown Hudson as a pension actuary, investment advisor and life insurance agent for Des Moines-based Principal Financial.
River Falls houses a large-and-dedicated group of runners, and he is quick to point out others with faster times, more dedication and better form. When cornered -- a Journal reader suggested a story about him -- the humble runner admits that his ‘age bracket’ puts him into a tiny minority.
According to the online source MarathonGuide.com, the average age of people finishing a marathon is 38. The percentage of male marathon runners in their 70s is 0.20%.
Schroeder has run marathons in 21 different locations including the Twin Cities, Boston, London, Hawaii, Chicago, Vancouver and others. He’s participated in the Boston Marathon four times and recently qualified for the 2013 and 2014 events.
He ran one of the ‘qualifying times’ during the Twin Cities marathon and the other during the Paavo Nurmi Marathon in Hurley. Schroeder explains that Nurmi was a famous Olympian and that all the runners groan at Hurley’s all-uphill ‘mile 26.’
Asked how he got started, Schroeder said he was traveling in the mid-1970s to Hong Kong for a meeting with a client who liked basketball. Schroeder brought along his U.S. Keds, thinking of a pickup game.
Turns out, the client was a runner, so Schroeder went with him in the humid 90-degree weather. Afterward his knees hurt, he had huge foot blisters and he couldn’t stop sweating.
He then dabbled in short runs and ‘fun’ races until one day when his teenage daughter suggested he try running the Twin Cities Marathon. He started thinking “why not?”
Schroeder’s first TC Marathon in 1983 taught him the importance of stretching and the pain of Charlie-horse cramping. He hasn’t missed a Twin Cities marathon since and says many others from River Falls run it.
The marathon man says he most enjoys the camaraderie of the sport. He goes with an informal group in River Falls and at Lake Calhoun.
“What I have come to enjoy is the social aspect of running,” he said.
Running to train
Schroeder says he runs marathons to train for marathons, running “hard” only to achieve a qualifying time. He runs four times a week and when approaching a marathon, gradually increases the mileage from 8 to 12 to 16… He swims twice a week and finds cross training a challenge.
“This summer I did my first triathlon,” he said.
Schroeder said the swimming took him “forever;” he went into the water as number 86 and came out as number 120 then made up time riding a bike and running -- passing some 60 people.
He feels fortunate to be free of pain and serious problems after pounding the pavement for 30 years. But, Schroeder disclaims, that doesn’t mean he finishes every race or has never been injured.
He said he hits “the wall” in about two of every three marathons and once considered lying down in the middle of the Twin Cities event. He’ll slow to walk, consider stopping then eventually complete the race.
“You have to feel good about making it and finishing,” Schroeder said.
He doesn’t have any mantras or secret formulas for success but does put on a new pair of socks before each marathon. He says Vicky rescued him years ago from wearing some wildly paired colors -- both for running and the office.
He agrees each marathon route and city has its different charms. In Boston, the whole city shuts down for the big race that hosts some 27,000 runners.
They all have a computer microchip in their shoe that starts and finishes their time counter, keeps everyone on the course and is a plus for runner safety. The chip also enables a runner’s fan to track their progress online.
He’s run several marathons including Boston with one or both of his daughters and sometimes, his sons in law too. Schroeder says three of his four grandchildren -- 11, 9 and 7 -- can already keep up with him.
Qualifying for marathons requires that a runner complete the 26.2-mile course in a certain amount of time that varies a bit from race to race. For example in Schroeder’s case for Boston, a man of 70 must run the course in 4 hours, 25 minutes; a man 18-34 would need a time of 3 hours and 35 minutes.
Runners can qualify at any marathon using the guidelines set forth by the U.S. Track and Field organization, the same used by the Boston Athletic Association and many others.
Schroeder throws in the fact of why marathons are 26.2 miles, saying the first ones in Ancient Greece were 26 miles. The route was extended when Queen Victoria wanted the race to come by the palace.
The running man says he’s been considering other endeavors but will continue to enjoy running. Schroeder, a self-proclaimed scientist and mathematician, says it continues to amaze him how much power the mind has over the body.