NRC Runners of the Month – Elizabeth Schaub and Russ Kozar

Elizabeth Schaub

Elizabeth SchaubWhen I think of this month’s female NRCer, a four-letter word comes to mind… REAL.  Known to occasionally let a few four-letter words fly herself when running Nolensville’s toughest hills, Elizabeth Schaub is a “what you see is what you get” kind of girl.  Her bold, dark brown Pixie is a perfect match for her fun-loving, confident personality and her warm smile is just as genuine whether she is cracking one of her quick-witted one-liners or welcoming a new runner to the crew.

I got the rare chance to visit with Elizabeth and her family when we met for this interview, and when I told her two young girls that the article would be posted on the NRC website, they proudly informed her, “Mom, you’re famous!”   While she is undoubtedly worthy of NRC celebrity status, she would never claim the spotlight.  Still, we got her to share her story along with a few surprises!

Elizabeth was born and raised in Oklahoma City.  With just one older brother, she found a sisterly bond in her school years as part of an inseparable foursome of friends.  As a child, she says she was horrible at sports, but it didn’t stop her from playing; first tee ball, then right field in softball through Junior High and basketball (but was a true bench warmer) until finding a fit with volleyball in High School.  One thing she realized through it all was she hated running. When her friends did training runs, she said she was always dead last.

Still, Elizabeth is a tough cookie.  When the high school football team started a summer training camp, she and her friends demanded they be allowed to participate.  The coaches bended begrudgingly, but did their best to make the girls quit, running them until they puked.  After the first day of running and weight lifting, she remembers they could literally not walk, but they went back and completed the camp, leaving a legacy.  They kept the tradition every year along with a growing list of young women.

She went on to college at Oklahoma State University, an agriculture school in Stillwater, and a far cry from her busy city life in OKC.  She learned a few things about cows and hay bales, but her main focus was studying to be a dietician.  At this same time, her future husband was also a student at OSU, but they were only ever as much as acquaintances.  Post graduation, Elizabeth landed a job in Dallas, TX away from all her family and friends.  She vented to a close friend about how she didn’t have anyone to hang out with and her friend’s boyfriend suggested she call a friend of his who also happened to be in Dallas for work.  As the small world turns, wouldn’t you know it was none other than Fritz Schaub!  Elizabeth admits that from the first time they met she knew that he was “the one”.

I was surprised that up to that point, Elizabeth was dead set on never marrying or having kids and was going into the Peace Corps!  I am not kidding, folks.  Her Peace Corps application was already in process, but after meeting Fritz she realized she did want to marry and have a family with him, and immediately retracted her Peace Corp application for true love!  They married in Oklahoma City in 2000 and have two beautiful girls, Kate and Clare.

With family and work, Elizabeth found running an easy way to stay in shape, but never ran more than 6 miles at a time.  In Dallas, she completed several 5Ks, 10Ks and two Half Marathons.  She was talked into her first half by a long-time friend back in Oklahoma (the same one that hooked her up with Fritz).  The race was the Inaugural Dallas Rock ’n’ Roll Half Marathon in late March.  She agreed, even though she knew she’d have to train solo and in all kinds of weather conditions, but it ended up being her favorite race yet!  Addicted, she ran her second half that October and did the White Rock Marathon 5-person Relay in December that year.

Due to a great job opportunity for Fritz, their family made the move to Nolensville, TN in 2010.  This was a huge adjustment for all of them.  The first year was really hard since they had no family or friends in the area.  They had even considered moving back, but wanted to give it at least a year.  Then one Wednesday in the Fall of 2011, at the urging of NRCer Leanne Hunter, Elizabeth came out to Martin’s and ran with NRC.  Two things stick out in her mind – it was dark and there were so many hills!  She was kept company by JoAnne King who somehow remained cheerful in spite of the elevation changes, and Scott who she recalls apologized after a bad climb saying, “I’m sorry.  That hill really sucked.”  In spite of it all, she stayed for dinner and was instantly made to feel like one of the crew. She came back on Saturday and each week from then on, even encouraging her hubby to join.  Thankfully, somewhere during the out and backs, the courtesy loops, and the post-run brews, NRC became their second family and the Schaubs decided to stay put.

She trained for the 2013 Country Music Half with NRC.  These were bonding experiences with friends like Ken Moore and Amanda Brewer as they pushed each other to go the hilly route and tack on that final mile.  It was all worth it on that rainy race day when they crossed the finish line strong!  Now she is training for the Carmel Full Marathon to check “Do a full marathon by the time Clare is in kindergarten” off her Bucket List.  While her biggest fear is hitting the wall, she has trained smart and is poised to have a great race surrounded by NRCers.

When she’s not running Elizabeth likes to be out with her family exploring Nashville; from the zoo to Cheekwood to Arrington and even taking the girls to hear some day time honky-tonk music down on Broadway.  A hopeless romantic, she wowed Fritz one Valentine’s Day with a Kegerator Kit which still sports a tap today.  Another Bucket List item she hopes to complete with Fritz one day is “Take a flashpacking trip to Machu Picchu” (you HAVE to ask her about this).

When it comes to NRC, she said she loves how everyone encourages you to be yourself.  She remarked on how rare it is to have a group like ours with such a sense of community and stewardship.  Citing the Couch to 5K Program as a prime example, she feels privileged to be a part of how NRC is making a difference in so many people’s lives.

Congrats, Elizabeth.  It is undeniable.  You are the real deal and we’re proud you’re part of NRC!

Russ Kozar

Russ KozarIt was a crisp, cool morning last October and the sun was coming up over the rolling, Kentucky countryside.  The dewy grass almost looked blue in the soft light of dawn as spectators and runners geared up for the Iron Horse Half Marathon.  It was a good day for running and a good day for our male NRCer of the Month, Russ Kozar.  One of a small group of NRCers (including Big Blue) who traveled to participate, Russ ran this race with his friend and unofficial coach, Roy Tamez.  With Roy’s help, he pushed himself to complete the half in 1:54, which was a 12-minute PR!   A far cry from his experience at the sweltering Franklin Half a few months earlier, he considers this his favorite race… so far, that is.  Russ is on a mission.  With his sights set on some lofty, personal goals, he’s keeping his eyes out for ways to encourage others to reach their full potential.

Russ was born the youngest of six children in Onsted, Michigan, a small, picturesque, farm town known as the Irish Hills area.  (Sound like a town we know?)  After high school, he enlisted in the Army where he served 12 years, stationed in locales including North Carolina, Washington state, Hawaii, and Korea. He did tours of duty in Operation Desert Storm and was a Platoon Leader commanding roughly 120 soldiers at any given time.  With ambitions to pursue a new challenge, Russ sought a career in the civilian world and says the training and lessons he learned in the Army helped to develop many of the skills that have led to his success in business.

He met the love of his life, Kristina, after returning from his tour in Saudi Arabia.  While back in Michigan to visit his sister, he went out at a local watering hole and that’s where the fair Kristina caught his eye.  He started up a conversation and was instantly intrigued, but it was late and they both had been celebrating, so she suggested they meet up the next afternoon at her place.  Funny story, she admitted to him that she had a little trouble remembering what he looked like, but was instantly relieved when he came to the door!  From then on it was a whirlwind romance and after 3 months the two were married.  To anyone who says short engagements don’t last – they are truly a perfect pair and will commemorate 23 years of marriage this year!

For a time, Russ and Kristina endured a long-distance relationship with her in Louisville, KY and Russ in Evansville, IN.  He had paid his dues and worked his way up through the ranks of a major home improvement products and equipment retailer to the role of store manager.  While the two survived the long weeks apart, they were ecstatic when Russ learned he would be taking on the manager position of a new location in southeast Nashville and they immediately initiated their plans to move.  One of the first places they visited was Nolensville.  They went to the Feed Mill and the town center, and the scenery reminded them of the small towns they grew up in.  They fell in love with Nolensville and moved into their house the day after Christmas in 2011.

Of course, you can’t get through boot camp and the Army without running.  The military drills and training all prepared him for running in difficult physical and mental circumstances.  Still, it wasn’t until spring of 2012 that Russ began to run on a more consistent basis.  He recalls being struck by the picture of NRC in the Nolensville Dispatch with everyone costumed for the Halloween run around town.  He went to the website and found the details about the Wednesday night run.  His first NRC run was with Amy Klotz, Scott Alexander, Melvin Woodard, and Zack Klint, and he admits they about killed him!  After, he remembers talking to Scott and Lauren Combs, once he caught his breath, and he couldn’t believe how inviting everyone was.  A glutton for punishment, he came back on Saturday and ran his longest distance ever, spurred by Scott and Amy K. who invoked the “No runner left behind” mantra and circled back to make sure they stayed together.

Now, as a regular NRCer, he likes to pay it forward and encourage new runners with the crew.  For example in the 2014 Tom King Half, he helped pace NRCer Steve Kraft to a sub 2 hour time and Vicky Victory to 2:00 with his steady stride and well-timed encouragement.  He was proud to be a mentor with the NRC C25K program last year and was so inspired by the people in his group.  The transformations and achievements they made, and continue to make almost a year later, he says are what the program is all about.

He acknowledges that really everyone in the club is very supportive, which honestly, is surprising to him. He noted it really is unique to have a group where seasoned, fast runners mingle comfortably with runners and walkers of other levels, and he says he has run with the Fleet Feet Ultra Dirt Bags and the Wild Wings Running Club, and it makes him proud when they speak highly of NRC.

Running with NRC for Russ is the ultimate stress reliever.  He says the people of NRC, just as much as the activity, “make you forget about everything else” and the post-run socializing is his reward.  Like most of us, getting to eat and have a beer with friends afterwards is one of his main motivators for running.  Plus, he likes that he and Kristina are a running couple, so they can spend that time together.

Last year was a busy year for Russ.  In April, he had to pull out of the 2013 Carmel Marathon due to recovering from a stress fracture, but did pace Kim De to a PR in the 8k. He was one of the brave souls who took on the hot and hilly Inaugural Franklin Half Marathon, his first ever, in June.  Then, in November, Russ ran the Monumental Indianapolis, his first full. Unfortunately, he “fell apart on the last 3 miles” but still finished at 4:04.  Wanting a better experience for his next full, he knew he needed to do something different.  So, Russ talked to Roy about training for the 2014 Carmel Marathon and Roy agreed to help.  His training has been going great so far, plus he gets the added bonus of refueling on Darlene Tamez’ vegan breakfast specialties!

When asked about his Running Bucket List, he said he wants to complete a full or half in all 50 states.  He and Kristina are doing a half marathon in Montana this September to get started towards this goal.  Plus, he wants to find more opportunities in the future to help others. A running must-have for him is his music (although he says he runs faster without it) and his playlist varies from classic rock, especially 60’s – 70’s era, to Happy by Pharell

Inside scoop – Russ may not have told you, but he is a skilled bowler!  He’s been lining up strikes since he was 17 years old and plays on a local league.  He has bowled three 299s, but has yet to attain that illusive 300.  Well, Russ, you’re a perfect 300 to us!  Congrats and thanks for all you give back to NRC!