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Schmidt Finds Strength in Running

Most Representatives run every two years. Rep. Jean Schmidt runs every day.

For the past 21 years, the Ohio Republican has hit the pavement, rain or shine, including 88 marathons.

Last week, she crossed the finish line on her favorite, the Boston Marathon, for about the 15th time.

This year, Schmidt’s daughter, Emilie, joined her in the race for the first time. Just months after the delivery of Schmidt’s second grandchild and after a great deal of training together, the mother and daughter crossed the start and finish lines together.

“I never thought she’d be able to run it with me,” Schmidt said. “But she qualified with me and we ran arm in arm from the start to the finish. … I think she was smiling a little more than me.”

Schmidt said she enjoyed sharing the sights of the Boston Marathon, one of the world’s best-known races. One of her favorite parts is the section along the campus of Wellesley College, a private women’s school in Boston.

“The girls just stand out on the course and scream,” she said. “A half-mile before you get to Wellesley, you can hear them in the distance.”

Despite her constant training, Schmidt isn’t as fast as she was in her prime. Back in 1993, she ran the Columbus marathon in 3:19:09. This year, she finished the Boston Marathon in 4:01:36. But Schmidt said her attitude about racing has changed over the years.

“You’ve experienced all the joy you can for being the fastest you can be, and now it’s about being the best you can be for that day,” she said.

Schmidt ran her first marathon in Columbus, Ohio, after her mother passed away of cancer. Back then, only one out of every eight marathoners were women and races weren’t advertised widely. She found out about the 1990 race less than a week before the start and signed up that morning.

“It was a way for me to ease my heart,” she said. “It was a way to take the pain of her being gone from me out on the pavement for 26 miles.”

On the way home, she discovered how empowering marathons could be. She noticed a sign marking 26 miles until Cincinnati as she drove.

“I realized that if the car broke down, I could get home,” she said. “I buried my mother, I ran 26 miles and there’s nothing I can’t do. I can do anything.”

Now, she’s focused on sharing running with others. She’s the assistant coach for a grade school cross country team, and she works with City Gospel Mission of Cincinnati for a program called Step Forward. It prepares “people who have lost hope” for a marathon in Cincinnati, according to its website.

Schmidt got her daughter enthused by bribing her with promises of gifts if she completed the race. Emilie walked her first marathon in Hawaii in high school, finally finishing after six hours.

“I went to the hotel, took a shower and came back to the finish line to see her finish,” Schmidt said.

That focus on family also animates her next big goal for her marathon career: finishing her 100th. She’s planning to make it the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon so her family can watch.

Schmidt, who runs on the National Mall every morning that she’s in Washington, has also brought lessons from her marathons to her legislating.

“As frustrated as you might be by the timing of it — it might be a year or a decade to get it passed — that’s the nature of the Hill, and that’s like a marathon,” she said. “You have to have patience, and you have to have the discipline to get things finished.”

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