By CHRIS MORRIS
NEW ALBANY —
Greg Schroeder doesn't look like Superman. And he would be the first to tell you he's not.
But consider this: Schroeder, 64, didn't buy his first pair of running shoes until he was 52 years old. But since he decided to lace up those shoes and start running, he hasn't stopped. Despite a recent bout with prostate cancer, he remains a man in motion. Whether it's running 10 miles with his son on a Sunday morning, or swimming laps at the New Albany branch of the YMCA, Schroeder stays active.
“I didn't start anything [exercise] until after I was 50,” he said. “Now I love it. I used to come up with flimsy excuses why I wasn't exercising.”
Schroeder's main excuse was a flimsy toe. When he was 9 years old, he broke a bone in his big toe, and because of the injury, he was never able to run without pain. It was keeping him from fulfilling one of his goals on his bucket list; to run a marathon at 50.
He decided to have surgery to remove a spur off the bone, which relieved the pain and allowed him to start an exercise routine.
“I couldn't believe how much pressure was on the bone. After the surgery I felt like a million bucks,” Schroeder said.
Without pain and with encouragement from his brother Mark, Schroeder began to run. For about three months he ran and walked a three-mile course, before he decided to participate in a 5K race.
“I wouldn't have done it without my brother Mark,” Schroeder said. “He challenged me.”
The first 5K led to another and then it was Fast Freddie's 5-miler on Thanksgiving morning. He kept building up endurance and miles, and after some urging from his friend Kevin Hornung, decided to sign up for a 10-mile hangover run in Louisville on New Year's Day. He was in for a rude awakening.
He said before that race, the farthest he had run at one time was just more than six miles. He told Hornung he wanted run it in two hours.
“Kevin told me to stick with him and we could run it under 90 minutes,” Schroeder said.
He finished in 89:20.
“I was hooked from that point on,” Schroeder said.
Recently, Schroeder has had to deal with another obstacle. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer. But that hasn't stopped him.
He ran in the Derby Marathon this year - his 15th marathon - despite the cancer. This summer, he completed his 43rd radiation treatment for the cancer and was given a clean bill of health.
“It makes you tired. It affects your stamina,” Schroeder said of the treatments. “You get a little weak and I had an issue with back pain. But the Derby marathon was no different than the others. Twenty-six miles is 26 miles. They are all tough.”
He finished it in 4 hours, 51 minutes.
“I considered my treatments and cancer an inconvenience, a bump in the road,” he said.
Schroeder said if his story inspires others to get out, and begin an exercise routine, that is great. But he doesn't consider himself anything special.
“I try to tell everyone about the joys of running,” said Schroeder, who says he runs an average of 30 miles a week. “It's one of the best things you can do. You not only accomplish something, but it gives you energy. Some runners get a runner's high. After about the first mile and a half, it's wonderful. It inspires me. Life is good.”
Schroeder said he enjoys running early in the morning, when the air is crisp and traffic is at a minimum. He also prefers cold weather ... a slight cool mist is his favorite.
“I love running in cold weather. When you finish you are on such a high,” he said.
He also missed very little running time two years ago after having hernia surgery.
“I told the surgeon to get in there and fix it because I want to run a marathon when I am 80,” he said with a laugh. “Eight days after surgery I ran 10 miles. I felt great. I think being as active as I am helps me physically.”
Schroeder doesn't plan on stopping until he has to. Running a marathon at 80 years old sounds impossible, but nothing is impossible if you are Greg Schroeder.
“I don't look at myself as a cancer survivor,” he said. “I am proud of the fact that while I was going through treatment, I was able to run a marathon and I didn't let it affect my lifestyle. When I was getting the treatments, that was just a destination I had to go to. That is how I looked at it.”