by Chuck Signs
Tanner Schrad looks like the prototypical distance runner: tall and lean; long, powerful legs.
But Tanner’s success in distance running wasn’t automatic. Like all goo
d runners, he had to work for it. Tanner’s commitment was rewarded with a 15th place finish at the 2014 state high school cross country meet.
Schrad is a 2015 graduate of South Central Calhoun High School at Lake City. With goals firmly set on academics and a future in chiropractic, he enrolled at the University of Northern Iowa. He runs every day and keeps in shape because he is motivated to continue running competitively.
“I chose UNI because I have been looking at chiropractic for a long time. UNI is rated one of the best undergrad schools for Palmer College of Chiropractic. Education has always been number one for me,” said Tanner, the son of Alan and Janet Schrad, who farm near Auburn.
A four-time state cross country meet qualifier, Schrad improved his time each year after starting at 99th place as a freshman. His team competed at state his freshman through junior seasons.
Tanner competes in the annual Relay Iowa in which teams of 12 compete in a race across the state, border to border. “That’s a lot of fun. We’ve got everyone from sprinters to marathoners on the team.”
He played football through eighth grade and then his dad encouraged him to try cross country. Being slender, he found that he was more suited physically for running and he fell in love with the sport.
“Going from football and not being the biggest or the toughest person on the field and being able to run, it was a lot of fun. Your teammates keep you going. It’s a family sport. It really is. Everybody on your team is family. It’s a blast.
“The young kids coming in look up at the seniors and say, ‘I want to be like that when I get older,’ and seniors look at them thinking they have to be an inspiration to the younger kids.
“You get to know everybody from all the surrounding teams. You meet some of the best guys around. Man, it’s a whole different atmosphere. You cannot walk away without a smile on your face.”
He was the two-miler on the high school track team.
“I prefer cross country courses. It’s nice to run by a tree once in a while and not just run around in a circle.”
Competitive running requires dedication, Tanner says.
“I don’t think that anything makes me a runner more than anyone else. You just have to go out and do it. You are what you make of it. It depends on how much effort you put into it. It’s kind of a sport that anyone can do.
“One of my good friends was always a bigger kid in high school and he didn’t get good until his senior year. He was always last in all the meets, but by the end of his senior year he was knocking on the door of varsity. He was right up there. Anybody can do it and it’s awesome to watch people succeed. It takes having the right attitude.
“You have to have the mindset for it. A lot of people say running sucks. Well, if you have that mentality, it will suck. You look at running as a challenge, like if I do this today I can do that tomorrow, and I keep pushing myself up.”
Competing with a team of runners, says Tanner, is a family affair.
“It’s one of those sports where you want to be the best person you can be, not just for yourself but for your coach, your teammates and your friends and family. You do have to be self-motivated, but everyone around you will motivate you, too.”
Also playing a motivating role are family members, friends and others who attend running events to show support, Tanner noted.
“Everyone pushes everyone. When somebody yells ‘Go Schrad,’ in my mind, is when you have to kick it up another gear and keep pushing forward.”
For Tanner and his teammates, one priority was having fun. “At a meet in Carroll it happened to be raining that day and there was a lot of
mud and we decided to make a mud slide.” They had fun together with bodybuilder-type muscle posing.
Tanner loved mentoring younger teammates. He plans to keep competing and advocate for the sport. “Running is a great way to stay in shape and it’s a lot of fun.”
He stays motivated reading a copy of his favorite quote, which he keeps with him:
“When you run with your legs you will be fast. When you run with your mind you will be faster. When you run with your heart you are truly unstoppable.”