Marathoner says running connects him with God

By | September 28, 2011

“I didn’t have a lot of confidence in myself when I was going to Highlands Elementary School,” said Schmidt who recalls many a time being picked last for teams during grade school. “In seventh grade I moved over to Wilson Middle School where people didn’t know me and things started to turn around.”


T.J. Schmidt, who took second place in the 2011 Fox Cities Marathon, is pictured with his wife Melissa and daughters Lily, 4, and Alayna, 5 months. (Amanda Lauer | For The Compass)

When he didn’t make Wilson’s basketball team, he took a different course. In eighth grade Schmidt convinced himself to go out for track.

“I started out as a sprinter, doing 100 meters. I was taking last place a lot as a sprinter; then they said with my stride length I’d be perfect in the 400,” he said. “In high school I did the 800. It got a little shaky when they wanted me to do the mile. When they saw me run the mile they said I should try out for cross-country. Senior year I was MVP for Appleton West cross-country.”

By the time Schmidt graduated he was doing 10-mile runs on a regular basis. “I did a 16-mile run and thought, ’10 more and I can do a marathon,'” added Schmidt. In the past 12 years he has completed 13 Fox Cities Marathons plus five others.

Running is one way for Schmidt to connect with God. “It’s how I collect my thoughts. I can solve problems. That’s a way to be spiritual when I’m out there with nature,” he said. One of his favorite trails is the Mountain Bay Trail that runs from Wausau to Green Bay and has a lot of wooded areas.

Praying is part of Schmidt’s running regimen. “I go to church and then run. I don’t really pray for God to make me run better. It’s just, ‘Stay with me and help me get the most out of the day.’ I’ve done all the training on my part, so I ask God to just be with me to make it through this and so I don’t have any injuries, especially when I’m racing.”

This year Schmidt was able to set two personal bests. He came in at 16:30 at the Brandon Willems B+ 5K Run at St. Mary Central High School in Neenah in July. His time at the Fox Cities Marathon was 2:41:18, just 1:53 behind the three-time winner, Mike Heidke. Last year Schmidt was 9:32 behind Heidke and came in fourth place.

It takes a lot of training to be a competitive runner, admitted Schmidt, who is employed at Miron Construction in Neenah. Both he and his wife work full time. “I have kids but I feel like I’m balancing my time really well with them,” he said. “I take them running with me. I give a lot up though. I run on my lunch hour so I have time to spend with my family. I do whatever it takes to get the benefits of both.”

Running is therapeutic for Schmidt. “You come back and you’re stronger. It helps you get through some problems. We had a miscarriage before Ally and it gave me time to be at peace with my mind to think about it.”

Running also gives him a chance to enjoy all of God’s creation, such as the birds and animals he encounters along the trails and the beautiful scenery, especially this time of year when the leaves are changing.

Schmidt is grateful for the gift he has. “Running is a talent that was given to me by God. I’m like, ‘If this is something that I’m good at, I want to be the very best that I can be at it before I lose the ability.'”

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