Flying Through a World Marathon Challenge with MTA

The duties associated with being a pilot are challenging. The training requirements for running a marathon also are challenging.

“There are frequently unexpected schedule changes daily because of weather or maintenance issues,” says United Express Airlines pilot and four-time marathoner Courtney Schoch. “Unfortunately, training runs or workouts are usually the first thing that gets eliminated because sleep is the top priority when I get to the hotel on a short overnight. Pilots must be well rested and alert in order to perform our job safely.”  

For Schoch, her running journey started with an impromptu jog on a trail. She has always been healthy, took precautions and ate healthy. Then a phone call delivered a dose of reality.

Flying Through a World Marathon Challenge with MTA

“It shocked me to be diagnosed with a form of skin cancer six years ago,” says Schoch, who was 38 at the time. “It was at that moment I realized life was short and I needed to embrace it. I was walking in the woods on a trail when I received the call from my doctor and moments after I broke into a run. Wow! It felt amazing!  I do not know why I ran, perhaps I thought it was something I never thought I could do because of my curvy body type and wanted to feel alive after such terrible news.”

Running as a metaphor for life

Her run was short, around .3 of a mile, but the “amazing feeling” it gave her was long lasting.

“This is how I became hooked on running,” she says. “I signed up for a 5K Color Run in Cleveland Ohio in 2013 with my family and used Couch to 5K as my first training plan. It was such a fun experience  and I vowed to make running a part of my life.”

Schoch, who has been cancer-free for four years, quickly transitioned to longer races.

“I’m still not ‘fast’ but I have the endurance to keep going and running is a metaphor for life,” she says. “I apply many running habits into my daily routine. Trail running is my preference because I love to be connected to nature and embrace the solitude it provides. In a world that is always buzzing, ringing, dinging and demanding trail running gives me peace of mind and time to collect my thoughts.”

Her ‘whys’ for running

Some runners have a particular “why” that gets them out of bed early for training. Schoch, however, can turn to any number of “whys” for her motivation. In no particular order, she lists:
• A race is a metaphor for life. If I can complete 26.2 miles, then I know I can conquer anything life throws at me. 

• So many people in the world do not have the ability or the freedom to use their bodies. I am running for all of those who cannot do so for whatever reason. 

• I believe the body is meant be used and pushed  and to exceed the boundaries we place on it both mentally and physically.

• My nonprofit, Runucate (run plus educate). I run marathons globally to raise awareness and funds for organizations that fight illiteracy and provide education.

World traveler and runner

Recently Schoch competed in the Easter Island Marathon in Chile, the fourth continent on which she has completed a marathon. Her goal is to finish all seven by 2022.

“All of my races are locations I have dreamt of visiting since I was a child,” she says. “What better way to explore a location than to run a marathon there?”

She uses Marathon Tours, which handles the logistics and schedules tours in the destination.

“They free up time and eliminate stress,” she says. “We spent two days in Santiago prior to our Easter Island departure. We toured a winery, sampled local cuisine and visited the beautiful ocean side city of Valparaiso. On the third day we took the 5-hour, 30-minute flight to Easter Island. The days prior to the marathon included visits to several archeological sites and landmarks with a tour guide. We also embraced the culture by partaking in a blessing ceremony for the runners.”

Horses and cows and medals — oh my!

The Easter Island race was hillier than Schoch had envisioned.

“The race was amazing!” she says. “There was a near constant incline for approximately 10 miles, a sharp descent to the beach marked the halfway point and then we headed back up the hill. It was an unexpected challenge that made the race more exciting.”

The course took runners from one side of the island to the other. Of the 250 total runners —5K, 10K and half marathon options were offered — 87 did the full marathon. There were plenty of surprises, too.

“The free-roaming horses, cows, island dogs and the sparkling blue South Pacific Ocean along with the Moai statues made this experience unforgettable,” she says. “A surprising event at the award ceremony was placing third in my age group. That was a podium first for me!”

Next on Schoch’s calendar is the Reykjavik, Iceland, marathon in summer 2020, followed by Antarctica in March 2021 and the Australian Outback in 2022. While that’s her primary goal, she continues to challenge herself.

“This year I’d like to run some trail races in the United States and learn a new sport, perhaps snowshoe racing, and possibly complete an ultra marathon,” she says. “A Spartan-type event would be amazing but I would need to work on my strength and upper body before committing.”

The value of MTA coaching, community

Schoch fully understands the value of hiring a coach as part of marathon training.

Coach Lynn Grieger

Her coach is Lynn Greiger of the Marathon Training Academy (MTA).

“Not only does a coach hold me accountable but a coach can modify my plan on a moment’s notice,” she says. “Fitting in training is tough, and it gets frustrating, There are times I have to get creative and supplement with a stair workout in the hotel or perform lunges up and down the aisle of the airplane between flight segments just to get a workout in. Something is better than nothing at times.”

Grieger has helped Scoch in numerous ways.

“Coach Lynn has helped me grow as a runner by being understanding, supportive and tough,” Schoch says.  “She has valuable insight and ideas that only an experienced coach can have. The best part is that she does not accept my excuses and believe me I have a lot of them! Her patience and ability to adjust my training plan on a moment’s notice is priceless.”

Perhaps the best compliment a client can give a coach is wanting to continue running, racing and growing. That’s the case with Schoch.

Courtney (center) at the Big 5 Marathon in 2017

“After a race I often want to sign up for another so I can have an excuse to use her services again,” she says. “Coach Lynn is always available when I need her and knows just the right thing to say to keep me moving forward. I would highly recommend a coach to get the most out of training and to learn a lot about yourself.”

Schoch learned about MTA through the weekly podcast, hosted by owners Trevor and Angie Spencer. She especially loves the race recaps and listener shout-outs.

“The episodes are inspiring and motivate me to get out the door especially when energy is low,” she says. “I love how Trevor and Angie keep things simple and dig deep. Connecting with the running community through the Facebook group is fantastic too. I love seeing everyone’s photos and reading their posts. Members can ask questions, share accomplishments, post links, seek advice, etc. There’s a lot of positivity in the group and a few times a week Angie queries members about upcoming events, training, etc. They also have a fantastic online member portal that offers all kinds of amazing runner tools.” 

Speed drill

Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio, previously Leon, Nicaragua (2014-2018) 
Number of years running: 7
How many miles a week do you typically run: 15-20 when not training –  25 or more when training
Point of pride: the first time I ran one mile without stopping 
Favorite race distance: half marathon 
Favorite pre-race or training food/drink: grits with a lot of pepper
Favorite piece of gear: Altra Lone Peak trail shoes
Favorite or inspirational song to run toWhatever It Takes by Imagine Dragons but mostly no headphones just the sounds of the trail
Favorite or inspirational mantra/phrase: “There is no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs” – Zig Ziglar
Where can other runners connect or follow you): 
• Instagram: Courtney.Schoch_runucate

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