Canceled road races didn’t hurt Ray Schlegel’s running routine one bit.
Instead of running in organized races, Schlegel found a new running challenge. The 64-year-old ran in 52 Nebraska towns over the course of the year.
Schlegel, who lives in Columbus, Nebraska, had the idea to run in one Nebraska city for every week of the year. He pulled out a map and noticed that about 30 towns were within 30 miles of Columbus, making it easy to drive out, run and drive home, all in a day.
Schlegel’s first run was in Clarks, Nebraska, about a 33-minute drive from Columbus. His final run was in Morse Bluff, Nebraska, about 40 minutes east of Columbus.
“I’m glad I did it,” he said. “It was a really good adventure.”
The project took a little bit of planning, Schlegel said. He stuck close to Columbus for most of his runs. But he tackled a few cities on his way to visit two of his children who live in Lincoln. His other two children live in Columbus, and if their kids’ sporting events took them to an out-of-town tournament, Schlegel would tag along to log a run.
Schlegel’s main rule for the project: A run had to be at least 3 miles to count. On most runs, however, he logged around 6 miles.
Schlegel works part-time at NorthStar, an employment agency that works with intellectually and developmentally disabled people in northeast Nebraska. His part-time schedule allowed some flexibility in his running plan. In addition to running in different towns, Schlegel still tried to run twice a week in Columbus.
He didn’t craft running routes in advance. Schlegel found a good parking spot, usually by a park, and ran around town. Some towns were small, so he wound up taking more rural routes.
Schlegel kept a journal listing each week of the year, the name of the towns in which he ran and a few notes about what he spotted in each place. He started the weeks on Sunday.
He noted things like “short run, snowy” in Grand Island. Other times, he noted finding old schools, buildings and opera houses. He marked down a few good fishing spots, too.
“The smaller towns are really interesting,” he said. “I’d run and think, ‘Oh, that’s pretty cool.’ I’d go back and write down what was interesting in that town.”
It was nice to get out during the pandemic, Schlegel said. Many signs said to stay home, but he figured he was “pretty safe out in the middle of nowhere running.”
Schlegel, who generally runs three times a week, got started with the hobby in junior high. He has run several marathons and racked up nearly 63,000 lifetime miles. Last year, he ran about 900 miles and rotated through three pairs of running shoes.
His 2021 running goal is a little, er, smaller. Schlegel wants to run in the state’s smallest town — Monowi, Nebraska. The village in northeast Nebraska has a population of one.
Schlegel, who has run in New York City before, said he can check off running in the biggest city and smallest city on his running bucket list.
Gymgoers share what motivates them, pet peeves and their proudest accomplishments
You never know who you might run into at the gym.
There's the man who's exercising as he waits for a heart transplant. Or the woman who's made Jazzercise workouts part of her life for more than 30 years.
Some workouts see moms accompanied by babies. Elsewhere you'll find folks well into their 90s who stick with exercise.
Check out their stories.