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Going the Distance

What’s the farthest you’ve ever walked in one stretch? Five miles? Maybe 10? How about 50? That’s just how far Jenn Schulze ’12 walked on one day as part of the 2012 Sneem JFK 50 Mile Challenge in Ireland.

Back in 1963, President Kennedy began the 50 Mile Challenge as a way to inspire the American military and the general public to put an emphasis on physical fitness. Since then, “50 Mile” events have popped up around the country, as well as around the world, as with the annual Sneem walk.

Beginning at 5 a.m. on May 27, Chistine Holtz, professor of media arts, and Dr. Andrea Frantz, head of the department of communications, joined the RMU students as part of a group of 162 people from all over the world that set out on an unforgettable journey, walking anywhere from five to 20 miles over the course of the day around the Ring of Kerry.

Schulze, however, went all the way, finishing the 50-mile walk in 17 hours and 40 minutes. In doing so, she joined over 100 other seasoned endurance walkers who had trained for months, and was the first American to ever finish the event.

Schulze, a graduate of Robert Morris University’s management program and a former member of the Colonials women’s lacrosse team, recently toured Ireland with Holtz and Frantz as part of a photography and journalism class. She and eight of her fellow classmates spent eight days in Sneem, getting acquainted with the people and the culture of the Emerald Isle. They wrapped up their trip with two days in Galway and two days in Dublin.

Schulze depended on her determination, spirit, and toughness, to finish the walk. She also benefitted from the support of three new lifelong friends she found along the route: Eddie, Aidan, and Jeremaih. Upon crossing the finish line with her newfound friends, Schulze, exhausted and famished, shed tears of elation.

“Crossing that finish line was one of the proudest moments of my life,” says Schulze. “I truly didn’t know if I would be able to make it the entire 50, and finishing hand-in-hand with the people who helped me most will always be one of my happiest memories.”

Schulze says she wants to keep doing physical endurance challenges, and one day she’d like to return to Sneem to take on the 50-mile challenge again. “This walk proved to me that if you believe in yourself you really can do anything.”

Written by Abbey Lape, a public relations major, who also took part in the challenge.

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