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Steven Schultz

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Why I Am Running in the Los Angeles Marathon

Posted: 03/20/11 12:24 PM ET

A jogger is someone who runs in place during a red light. A runner would never be caught dead looking like such a fool. We stop, act cool, then take off when the light turns green.

I'm running in the Los Angeles Marathon. I am excited to get up at 2:30 a.m. this Sunday for my second consecutive trip from Dodger Stadium to Santa Monica. When the Mayor fires the starting gun my priorities in life will suddenly change: keep running, find a place to pee, remain calm... keep running.

I will win the Marathon... or it feels like I already won. For me, the Marathon is like winning an Oscar. I go to the stage to accept it, thank the people who made my success possible and then get the chance to enlighten the world. I'll explain later. But first let me tell you about why I started running, again.

I was an avid runner a decade ago, but am unclear about exactly why I started. Maybe I was running from my fears. Sure, I had the usual good intentions. Like most, I wanted to live beyond 50. I wanted to hold my future grandchildren. But a more likely motivator was my dentist, who insisted that I see my doctor, who in turn cut off a piece of the sick-looking palate in my mouth. No cancer was found, but it scared me enough to quit smoking after 20 years and several failed attempts. I even broke it off with my mistress, the lady at the donut shop. I swear I sent one of her kids through college through my addiction to glazed donut holes.

Then one day I announced to my wife that it would be fun to run in the New York City Marathon. So I started running. It was exciting to see New York, the Twin Towers, the lively streets. But it was brutal. The last five miles I cursed at the crowd under my breath as they kept chanting, "good job, keep it up, you're almost there." I finished but it hurt so bad I could barely walk down the subway stairwell.

I kept running marathons though. I actually lost count, not because I had run so many, but because I was trying to block out certain memories: throwing up at the finish line; training for months only to get sick a week before the race; and promising God that if I live through this, I will never do that again. Then I stopped running.

Until two years ago. That's when I met "John." John is my inspiration. He is my age, has autism, and possesses a winning attitude. John works at the AbilityFirst L.L. Frank Work Center in Los Angeles, earning a paycheck by shredding high risk documents for companies that contract with AbilityFirst Shredding Services. A model employee, John is dedicated to his job and passionate about his work. If I could, I would replicate him 100 times over. Before John found AbilityFirst, he was at home doing virtually nothing. He didn't have the simple skills or support necessary to find a job.

I have a passion for people like John. I am the CFO for AbilityFirst and we are one of the original charities of the Los Angeles Marathon. This Sunday I will be running alongside other AbilityFirst supporters for John and the other 2,000 children and adults with developmental disabilities that AbilityFirst serves in Southern California, all of whom face their own personal marathons each day.

AbilityFirst invests donor contributions and taxpayer dollars in people like John so that they can receive job training and contribute to the community. But AbilityFirst and other organizations like us are losing more and more taxpayer dollars due to continuing state budget cuts. A whopping $500 million will be cut this year; a blow to John and other potential supported employees.

This gets me back to why I have already won Sunday's race and to my acceptance speech. I've won because generous people are cheering me on--people who have sponsored me by making a financial pledge of support. I thank them on behalf of all the people that AbilityFirst serves and who are winning their own personal marathons each day.

Please support me and the people that AbilityFirst serves. Visit my donation website here.