Saturday Spotlight- Gilda Schultz

Name: Gilda Schultz
Occupation: HS Mathematics Teacher, Newfield HS
Relationship: Kevin, husband
Children: Brooke 18, Jordan 16, Riley 12
Interests: Running, Triathlon, Reading, Sleep, Montauk, travel, dogs, music,

Each week I have enjoyed reading the SHWOW spotlight and sometimes wondered if I would ever get picked. Part of me hoped not to be asked and I really thought I would float under the radar. But, like the Reaping in The Hunger Games, my name was called, the odds were not in my favor.

So this is my story of how I became a Selden Hills Warrior.

I was never very athletic. I was a third and last child in my family. My brother was five years older than me and my sister 8. They were not active in school activities or sports and I guess it was just expected I would follow suit.

I recall asking and begging my mom to join the soccer team or take some dance classes like my friends were all doing. She would discourage me and give me some reason why I couldn’t join. My house was on 244th Street and Jericho Turnpike, making my front yard the Cross Island Parkway. Not the safest area for outdoor activities. Most of my days were spent watching my mom smoke her cigarettes and stir the sauce as she talked endlessly on the phone to my Aunts and her friends.

My first attempt at running was in 4th grade when I decided that I wanted to be a jockey. Being that I lived a half a mile from Belmont racetrack I was always going there with my dad to bet the horses. Not sure exactly where the idea came from but I decided that in order to be a jockey I had to start training. I would wake up early in the morning, before school, and run for about 30 minutes. The memories are foggy now that decades have passed, but I am sure this lasted for about a week.

I was nothing like my siblings. I wanted to participate in team sports and athletics. Fortunately, Floral Park was a really small town and I somehow managed to make it on the cheerleading squad and the softball team. There was even a feeble attempt to be on the gymnastics team, where I was basically the score keeper. Eventually I was able to join the local dance school and dancing/recitals was the one activity that I maintained all through high school. For those of you who have seen me dance, I am sure that is coming as quite a surprise. (Yeah, I do the herky jerky Elaine dance……)

College introduced me to the freshman 15 and aside from BROOM BALL (still my favorite sport of all time). I really did not exercise much. I took a dance class and an ice skating class, but not enough to fight off nachos and pizza subs at 2:00 am after a night of 10 cent drafts!!

As a freshman at SUNY Brockport, I was approached by a U.S. Army recruiter to join the military under a special program they were offering for college students where I could go to college during the semesters and complete my training during the summers. This was probably my first time in which running became part of my daily life. The Army taught me to run and showed me that it would be the ideal way to battle those college pounds.

Each year I returned to college I would regain the freshman 15, even as a senior, and then spend my summers on a military base running it off. It was too cold and snowy at Brockport to maintain the running…………I know, that is not the Gilda you all know now, but it was the perfect excuse back then.

After college I kept an interest in fitness. My favorite exercise was step aerobics at the gym. I was a junkie. I would take 2 classes in a row. Running was something I did occasionally and when I was with the military.

To make a short story even longer, let me fast forward to when I started to enjoy running. I was teaching in Middle Country SD and living in Setauket. After work I would run to the gym, work out and run back home. My runs became longer and eventually I skipped the gym. I was running 7 and 8 miles and decided to tackle a half marathon. That would have been my first race.

As luck would have it, I got into a nasty car accident on the way to work one day. I was 16 weeks pregnant and my tibia and fibula were completely broken. My leg was dangling as if I had two ankles. Due to the pregnancy, the doctors would not operate on my leg or perform any surgery. They made a few attempts to set the bones, but perhaps my screams or the fact that the stress of the pain would harm the baby, they just left it in a cast as close together as they could get them. In the end, my leg was never set properly. My leg is offset on an 8 degree angle and if you care to see it, I can show you the bump where the new bone grew to mend the bones back together. I asked the doctor how long until I could run again. I informed him I ran 8 miles just hours before the accident. He told me straightforward, that I WOULD NEVER RUN AGAIN.

12 years went by and I didn’t run. I didn’t run because the doctor said I couldn’t. One day at work I was chatting with a friend who lost his leg at the age of 16 in a boating accident. I told him how I used to run and why I don’t anymore. He was shocked!! “You don’t run just because someone said you can’t?” He had one leg and never let that stop him from anything. I just never thought about trying. So that afternoon, I went home, put on some old running gear and ran 2 miles. I never felt so liberated in my life!!!!

I mentioned to one of my childhood best friends, Karen Wontrobski-Ricciardi, that I started running again and she informed me that she just ran a 5k and we should try one. She proceeded to explain how she got a t-shirt and a banana and some chips for doing the run. I never heard of such greatness. I was all in. “Where do I sign up??!!!!” (It’s all about the swag – think Meghan Trainor)
My first 5k was the Shwachman Diamond. I ran it with a huge hangover. (Oddly enough, I was out at a party the night before with the friend from work that got me back into running!) Although it took me about 31 minutes to finish and it felt like the longest 31 minutes of my life. I was hooked. That was 2008. I haven’t stopped running since. Only now, I am very careful to skip the alcohol the night before. Some people say I’m not as much fun as I used to be, but I am so much happier.

As far as the Selden Hills, I also have Karen Wontrobski to blame for that as well. We would always see the little ad in the back of the Footnotes magazine and discuss how we should try it. Karen actually called Lou and met up at the hills and ran it a few times. I am always a little more difficult to convince to try something that I feel is outlandish. Finally on New Year’s Eve, 2014, I ran my first hill run and loved it. Unlike many, I love running hills. Not necessarily running down the hill, but I could run uphill all day.

I am thankful to be part of such a support group that has the same values and interests as me. I cherish the friendships that I have made so far and look forward to making more. I do view myself as rather awkward and uncomfortable when meeting new people, but I love it. I am looking forward to running these hills and races until my 80th birthday and hopefully beyond. God willing.
Thanks for reading this mini saga. (1424 words)

If you didn’t make it to the end, thats fine. It may be one of the longest spotlights in the history of SHWOW. Like I said, I am rather shy. LOL.

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