Marathon ManAug 22, 2023 02:55PM ● By Kim Carpenter
Photo by Bill Sitzmann.
Listen to this article here. Audio Provided by Radio Talking Book Service.
"You’re all going to die.”
"You’re all going to die.”
Those weren’t exactly the words Brandon Schutt expected to hear while running 365 miles across the state of Nebraska, but then again, the 19-year-old is all about the unexpected.
In late May, he embarked on an epic marathon to raise money for Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, Make-a-Wish Nebraska, the Stephen Center, and Community Alliance. He already had ample experience running as a track star at Bellevue East High School. After graduating in 2022, though, he thought his time pounding out miles was behind him.
Schutt, however, isn’t built that way. In fact, he’s built quite differently—both literally and figuratively. During the summer between the sixth and seventh grades, his growth rate was so rapid, he went from standing 5-feet-tall to 5 feet 10 inches. That rapid growth necessitated two epiphysiodesis operations, a procedure that inserts temporary metal plates to slow bone growth.
“It was a crazy experience,” Schutt remembered. “When they removed the plates, I was a completely different athlete. I was 10 times faster.”
The teen kept running; but he was also willing to slow down. During his final track meet as a senior in October 2021, Schutt did something extraordinary. Burke High School freshman Blake Cerveny suffered leg cramps that crumpled him to the ground. As Cerveny struggled to regain his footing, Schutt stopped, helped his competitor stand, and then supported him to the finish line, making sure to let the Burke athlete cross first.
This athletic altruism was widely celebrated, even making it to NBC’s Nightly News. It also resulted in Bellevue’s mayor officially proclaiming November 16, 2021 as “Brandon Schutt Day.”
Still, the athlete thought his time racing the clock was past.
“The moment running stopped being fun, I thought, ‘What’s the point?’ I was done running for other people. I wanted to do it for the right reasons,” he said.
He found one. Less than one month after the day declared in his honor, Schutt had “a super weird idea” inspired by Michael Warden, whose 2022 run across the US raised money for World Vision.
“I didn’t even tell my parents,” he confessed. “Finally, I said, ‘I don’t know how to tell you this. I’m going to run across the state of Nebraska.’”
When the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame Foundation gave Schutt and Cerveny the Ron Gustafson Inspiration Award in September 2022, the University of Nebraska-Omaha freshman gave an unplanned speech.
“I said, ‘In the summer of 2023, I’m going to run across the state of Nebraska for charity.’ There were former NFL and MLB players there. No one said a word. It seemed so crazy to them, but I’m used to that kind of reception,” Schutt recalled.
TJ Isaacs, lead director of philanthropy at Children’s Hospital who coordinated with Schutt for his donation, reacted similarly: “From a runner’s perspective, I thought it was a little crazy.”
Such reactions don’t bother the teen—he’d rather focus on giving back.
“I think I have an obligation,” Schutt explained. “I can do something not a lot of people can. If you have a talent, you can use it to help others.”
Accordingly, the college freshman focused on a full course load during the day and trained at night. He also found time to coach track at Lewis and Clark Middle School.
“That is where the fun began,” he smiled. “I was running an average of 40 miles a week. One week, I hit 130. I’d get off class and train for four hours.”
He ran so hard, he experienced what’s known as an ultra marathoner hallucination.
“I started seeing people,” Schutt recalled. “I thought, ‘I’m not rocking with this.’”
Still, he never complained and kept running.
“I didn’t see my friends a lot, and they didn’t even know why—I didn’t tell them,” Schutt admitted.
Schutt shared his plan with them in December. Eight close friends decided to join him.
On the evening of May 31, Schutt and his running posse began in Big Springs, Colorado, at the “Welcome to Nebraska” sign and ran eastward across US Highway 30. They averaged 40 miles, or roughly six hours, a day. Childish Gambino, Tyler the Creator, Brockhampton and the like kept a rotating, steady beat in his Air Pods. Day three saw a personal best for Schutt, who logged 85 miles.
“I ran from 7am to 12 that night,” he recounted. “I took a two-hour break in North Platte.”
It was around there that “some dude in a truck” pulled over and ominously intoned that the runners were all going to meet their demise.
“He just glared at us,” Schutt shrugged. “Who knows what his problem was.”
On June 10, Schutt finished at American Heroes Park in Bellevue. His “Running Across Nebraska for Charity” GoFundMe goal had been to raise $50,000; he thought $20,000 was more realistic. When the fundraiser ended in late June, the total was $27,905.
“Brandon was very passionate about the run. It meant a lot to him. It’s just awesome and fantastic to see,” Isaacs said. “I’m blown away by his character and drive and so proud of him.”
Despite his incredible achievement, Schutt is already preparing for his next marathon effort.
“It’s crazy. Now that I’m done, I’m even more ambitious,” he said. “I’m going to take a two-year hiatus before I do something new. I want to do more stuff like this in the future but on a bigger scale. I always wanted to see the world. Why not do it my way?”
For information about the charities Brandon Schutt chose for his cross-Nebraska run, visit childrensomaha.org;
This article originally appeared in the September 2023 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.