WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – In the sea of runners taking part in Saturday’s Historic Half Marathon in Wilmington, you won’t have a problem finding Donna Schultz. She will be the one decked out in red, white and blue, running with an American flag, with the picture of Army Specialist Antonio Moore pinned to her jersey. For the past decade, Schultz has run long-distance races to honor dozens of America’s fallen heroes. Schultz says she was inspired to start the tradition by a fellow runner, Sid Busch. Schultz met Busch when he was 72-years-old, and he had already run more than 200 marathons to honor fallen troops and to support their families.
“I thought, ‘You know if he can do it, how come I’m not stepping it up and doing it?’”, said Schultz, who lived in Wilmington in the early 90s but now resides in Powatan, Virginia. “My first race with the flag was in January 2018, and he actually drove here from Charleston, South Carolina to run it with me.”
Since that time, the 57-year-old has run 25 half-marathons, three marathons and three ultra-marathons, always with the image and story of a service member or members who lost their lives in the line of duty attached close to her heart. They’ve inspired her during the most difficult times.
“The Marine Corps Marathon in 2019, it was pouring down rain for the first 20 miles,” Schultz remembered. “At mile eight, I was done. I just would’ve quit right then and there, but I looked down at the picture of Jimmy Malachowski. I had been to his grave at Arlington (National Cemetery) the day before and I knew that it doesn’t matter what I feel. What he went through is most important and the freedoms we have because of that are important. So I didn’t care if I had to slog through the rain filled streets of (Washington) DC, I was going to get it done for him.”
Schultz returns to Wilmington several times a year. It was during a visit for a friend’s birthday in late January 2020, when they happened to witness the motorcade transporting Spec. Moore’s body from Wilmington International Airport to a funeral home. The young soldier had died during a deployment to Syria. Schultz watched as thousands of people lined the streets, waving American Flags and holding hand-made signs of support for Spec. Moore’s family.
“I saw that motorcade and it was just so heart stopping,” she said. “So, I researched him and I saw interviews with his family. I knew when I researched him and saw what a great kid he was and that mile-wide smile that he had, I knew there was going to be a race for him at some point.”
Schultz reached out to Spec. Moore’s mother, Crystal Vereen, about her plans to run the Historic Half Marathon in her son’s honor. Schultz says the two have messaged back and forth, and the family plans to be at the finish line for the end of Saturday’s race.
“It’s going to be very emotional,” Schultz said about meeting Spec. Moore’s loved ones. “I try my best not to cry, because it almost sort of pushes me into a little bit of asthma and I can’t really breathe. I just can’t wait to meet them and give her a giant hug and let her know your son is awesome. He did what he needed to do to serve his country. He gave the ultimate price and he’ll never be forgotten by the outside community. The family is never going to forget, but the community needs to remember, too.”
The Historic Half Marathon begins at 7:45 Saturday morning at Riverfront Park in downtown Wilmington.
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