OKABENA — Former Heron Lake-Okabena teacher Jim Schneider will celebrate his 70th birthday by running more than 100 miles through South Dakota's Black Hills.
Schneider began running at age 60. He said he was inspired to start after cheering on his youngest daughter as she ran the Eau Claire Marathon in Wisconsin.
"When I watched her run, I thought, 'If she can run 26.2 miles, I should be able to run three miles,'" Schneider said.
Completing a 5K was his first goal. He began training by running on a treadmill, then moved outdoors when the weather was warm enough. After a few months, he ran his first 5K in Slayton in April 2009.
He planned to then work up to a 10K, then a half-marathon and a full marathon. However, the timing worked out that he actually ended up doing a half-marathon next, followed by the King Turkey Day 10K in September 2009.
"It's been a good thing for me," Schneider said of his newfound hobby.
Although he has battled meniscus tears, hip inflammation and a blood clot in his lung, Schneider has continued to run and race regularly for the last 10 years. He's also thankful for his family's support of his running.
"I think my wife has been to every run I've done," Schneider said.
On a typical day, Schneider runs seven to eight miles, with one day off per week. He runs two to three marathons each year.
His upcoming 109-mile trek will traverse the George Mickelson Trail. Schneider said he has his run planned for about 16 miles per day from Sep. 3-9.
The end of the trail will bring Schneider to Edgemont, S.D., a special location because it's the town where he first began his 41 1/2-year teaching career. Following his time in Edgemont, Schneider taught at Heron-Lake Okabena for 39 years. He has also served as mayor of Okabena.
Despite the extreme length of Schneider's journey, he's calling it his "pre-marathon warm-up." Schneider will run the Twin Cities Marathon Oct. 6.
As part of the run, Schneider is raising money for Minnesota Make-A-Wish. He chose Make-A-Wish because he participates in its Walk for Wishes every year while visiting his daughter in Miami, Florida. He likes this quote from the Make-A-Wish website: “When a wish is granted, a child replaces fear with confidence, anxiety with excitement and sadness with optimism.”
The average cost of granting one wish is $10,000, so Schneider set that as his fundraising goal. So far, he has raised $515, which is about 5% of the total.
People who wish to support Schneider's efforts may donate online at wish.org. The site also includes a link to a mail-in form for those who don't want to give online payment information. Additionally, Schneider has a donation account at Currie State Bank in Okabena for those who would like to drop off contributions.