John Schreifels isn’t running for his life. The Vietnam veteran is running a 5K on behalf of disabled American veterans who perhaps no longer can do the things that they used to do.
The 63-year-old St. Cloud man is training for the annual The Old Glory Run, which will be held in St. Joseph this year.
“I’m looking forward to this year’s Old Glory Run,” said Schreifels, a father of four grown children. “The money goes to a good cause for the veterans.”
Schreifels served three years in the Army in the late 1960s and the early 1970s in places like Korea, Germany and Vietnam.
John Schreifels is a 63-year-old Vietnam veteran from St. Cloud who will run in The Old Glory Run, which benefits the Disabled American Veterans of Minnesota Foundation. Photo by Frank Lee
“After getting out of the military, I started working at the VA medical center as the first police officer at that center,” Schreifels said.
“I started out as a police officer, was promoted to a sergeant and then for the last 14 years of my career at the VA, I was the VA police chief. I was employed by the U.S. government for over 45 years before retiring in January.”
“I have been running for 30 years and have done 40 full marathons and twice that many half marathons,” said Schreifels, who runs five days a week and attempts to run 50 miles a week.
“I started back a few years ago a running group at the VA that lasted for a short period of time. Then several of us started meeting on Saturday morning doing a long run, anywhere from 10 to 20 miles. We call ourselves the Misfitz.”
Proceeds from the 5K will help the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) of Minnesota Foundation.
“I’ve worked at the VA, so I have seen where they have given the money back to the VA for things like vans,” Schreifels said of transportation for veterans travelling to and from the VA.
“I’m more of a long-distance runner, but at my age, I’m not really looking at time anymore but just looking at completing the 5K, which will be a fun get-together with a lot of veterans and people I know.”
For Schreifels, running has become part of his life. But it wasn’t always that way.
“One day, I work up when I was about 30 years old and started looking at men who were about 50 or so and at what kind of shape they were in, and I said to myself, ‘I don’t want to be like that,’ so basically, I started running, and I’ve been running for the last 30 years,’” Schreifels said. “When I first started out running, I ran around about three blocks, and I came home and kind of laid down in my yard and said, ‘This is not for me,’ but as I started running a little bit more and more, I basically built myself up, and I’ve been running strong … without hardly any injuries.”
Schreifels credits his daily running for his good health because he does not take any medications, unlike many of his peers.
“I don’t eat as well as I would like to, but when you are a runner, you get to eat a lot more stuff that most people shouldn’t be eating because you burn the calories as a runner,” Schreifels said. “I’ve been real fortunate that I’ve been able to run for this many years as I have been.”
The Old Glory Run will take place on May 21 in St. Joseph. The run was moved to St. Joseph from Cold Spring this year because of construction in Cold Spring, according to the DAV of Minnesota Foundation. For more information about The Old Glory Run, visit www.theoldgloryrun.com.