Capitol Hill takes on the Marine Corps Marathon: For Jean Schmidt, it’s just another Sunday



She knows the drill. She’s done it 79 times before.

Since November of 1990, Schmidt has logged at least two marathons a year, and sometimes as many as five. She’s run the big races, like Boston, New York, Chicago and Hawaii, celebrating afterward with her guilty pleasure — LaRosa’s pizza.

ADVERTISEMENT
After this weekend’s Marine Corps Marathon, she will have run 2,096 marathon miles.

But there is one thing that will be different about her 80th marathon. This is the first time she has ever been asked to give a formal pre-race speech.


She will address a crowd at 1 p.m. Saturday, during the Health and Fitness Expo, a precursor to the Sunday run.

Schmidt didn’t plan to log her 80th quite so soon — she ran the Columbus Marathon last Saturday, and the only other time she ran two marathons in two weeks didn’t go so well, she said. But as a requested guest, she felt obliged to adjust her plans.

“I said, if you want me to speak, I might as well run it,” she said.

Though she’s still drafting the speech in her head, Schmidt said she’ll focus on preparation for Sunday morning.

“A friend told me, ‘You’ve already prepared for the big dance,’” Schmidt said. “ ‘The only thing you can do is better your mind.’ ”

As a congresswoman, Schmidt knows a thing or two about the relationship between mind and body while running. She turned to the hobby as a way to release work stress.

“It’s nice to take the frustration out on the pavement,” Schmidt said. “It’s better to have a war in your head.”

As a “solitary runner,” Schmidt said she has only sporadically run with other politicians and doesn’t have time to work out with her office staffers.

“I really like to be by myself,” Schmidt explained. “I’m my most creative and my most peaceful.”

To fit training into the busy life of a House member, Schmidt gets up at 4:30 each morning to log hourlong runs around the National Mall. Back at home in Ohio, if her daughter, Emilie, asks her to watch her 1-year-old grandson, Michael, Schmidt’s wake-up time gets pushed up to 3 a.m.

The early morning runs have proven risky in the past. Last year Schmidt was struck by a car while running in Ohio’s Miami Township, breaking two vertebrae and two ribs.

“I don’t know if it was intentional, but they clearly went way off the road to hit me,” Schmidt said. “I could have been hurt worse if I hadn’t been paying attention.”

But being the avid runner she is, Schmidt didn’t let a wrinkle as small as recuperating from a broken back keep her off the pavement for long. Only a week after being cleared to run again, Schmidt completed the Walt Disney Marathon in a time that would make even some serious runners envious.

“I wouldn’t let myself go over five hours,” said Schmidt, who walked and ran the race in four hours and 58 minutes. “I was thrilled. It’s all relative.”

Since recovering from her injury, Schmidt said, she hasn’t taken a day off.

“Knock wood, the Lord has blessed me,” she said, leaning to rap on a nearby table. “I’m so grateful I can run every day.”

And these days, Schmidt says she is pain-free — almost.

“I have unnecessary blisters,” Schmidt said, an affliction she blames on a “slow economy.” The Mizuno Wave Rider, her running sneaker of choice, is no longer made in the “wide” size Schmidt’s most comfortable in.

Still, she doesn’t plan to let that deter her from completing the race Sunday, or, for that matter, future races.

ADVERTISEMENT
“I plan to run at least 100,” Schmidt said determinedly. If all goes according to plan, she’ll complete her hundredth at the Cincinnati Flying Pig race, a course she “very preliminarily” helped plan in 1998.

But it’s likely that Schmidt will run it more for pleasure than competition.

“Age has a way of humbling you,” said Schmidt, who logged a personal-best time of three hours, 19 minutes and nine seconds in 1993. “My record-breaking days are over.”