Schuham’s running inspires family, friends
Marti Schuham of Winnetka ran up and down the lake bluffs at Maple Street Park in Winnetka and other local beaches to train for high-altitude marathons out west which helped her to win first place overall for women in the Park City Marathon on Aug. 18, 2012. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 5, 2012 6:54AM
Marti Schuham joked that her three children didn’t hold running in high regard until recently.
What changed their collective minds?
Maybe it’s because Schuham has spent the past few months playing the part of star athlete by fielding numerous calls from reporters about her victory in August at the Park City Marathon in Utah.
“They said it wasn’t a sport,” laughed Schuham, a Winnetka resident. “Now, they are looking at me in a different way. Maybe they are thinking that running is something to pay attention to.”
One of her children now is following in her mother’s footsteps.
Sara Schuham, a 14-year-old freshman at New Trier, is running cross country for the first time. She’s part of a program that won its first state championship last year and is a favorite to do it again in November.
“I always see her running, and it looked like fun,” said Sara Schuham, who has an older sister, Julia, and a younger brother, Charlie. Julia is a junior and plays golf at New Trier, and Charlie is in sixth grade and practices karate. “I wanted to try it.”
Marti Schuham, who will run Sunday in the Chicago Marathon, grew up in Denver and attended the University of Colorado Boulder. The 44-year-old started running after she moved to the Chicago area for work as a way to stay in shape.
A short time later, a former boss turned her on to competitive running. During Schuham’s first half marathon in Chicago in 1993, she was so sure she wouldn’t finish she stashed cab money in her shoe.
“After that, I wondered what it would be like to put two half marathons together,” she said.
Schuham entered her first marathon later that year with her husband Rick, a Chicago native. One was enough for Rick, who hasn’t competed in another since then. For Marti, it started of a run of more than two dozen marathons.
“I got the bug,” she said. “Every single time I did one I was surprised I could do it again. I am not one to set goals. Goals wreck it for me. I just go out and do my best. I think I perform better without goals.”
A veteran of marathons in Chicago, Boston and New York City, Schuham took that attitude to Utah in August, and it resulted in her career highlight. Even in the high altitude and with two bathroom breaks, she finished in 3 hours, 10 minutes, one of the fastest races of her life.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Schuham said. “I was so shocked.”
Winning isn’t why Schuham runs. Of course, it’s nice. As is collecting some cash, like the time she earned $500 in an event.
But to her, running is something that lets her know she can do anything.
“Running is about empowerment,” she said. “About being strong, confident and self-reliant. Running is such a big part of life now, and I feel like I can draw on it for other things.”
The roads and trails also can substitute for a psychologist’s couch. She and her running partners — Margaret Lake, Lisbeth Scharf, Amy James and Melissa Iserloth – use the early morning exercise as a way to share thoughts, good and bad.
“After a run, I feel so much better emotionally,” Schuham said. “I run with a bunch of other moms. We talk when we run. It’s therapy. For me, that’s the biggest reward of all. The physical piece is secondary. Those girls are my best friends.”
Lake and Scharf agree, and both of them also appreciate the lessons Schuham teaches them on the trails.
“She is one of the most focused and disciplined people who I have encountered in my past 20 years of running,” said Lake, a veteran of four marathons. “More than that, Marti, Lisbeth and I have covered many miles through all the seasons. She always is such a positive motivator, and her endurance on the trails carries over to her passion in life.”
Scharf ran her first marathon in 2009 in Chicago with Schuham.
“She’s been my mentor,” Scharf said. “She gave me insight into training, things you don’t pick up in a magazine.”
Sara Schuham is gaining a greater appreciation for what her mom has accomplished throughout the years. Although she joined the cross country team this year as a way to prepare herself for the spring lacrosse season, Sara Schuham is beginning to like running on its own.