Troy Schaab, who was born and raised on a farm south of Unity, attended St. Peter’s School and Unity Composite High School through Grade 10. He then relocated to North Battleford for the last two years of high school to play hockey, graduating in 1991. His parents are Vern and Sharon Schaab.
Schaab, now a resident of Calgary, says when he was part of the UCHS cross country running team, his goal was to not finish last. Schaab claims he wasn’t a strong runner, but recalls the UCHS running team was very strong, having several athletes claim some first place spots, with his brother being one of those runners.
In 2007, 20 years later, Schaab said he lost a few pounds and decided to train for a half marathon, which is 21.1 km. From there, his love of running grew and he eventually competed in his first full marathon in 2012 in Victoria, running 42.2 km.
Schaab says, “Running has taken me to so many amazing places, such as New York City, The Great Wall of China and, most recently, the Atacama Desert in Chile.”
In September of 2019, Schaab completed the Atacama Crossing 250 km Ultra Marathon. The event is a seven-day, self-sustained event, taking runners across some of the most extreme terrain out there. The race is split into six stages, all at a distance of roughly 40 km each, with day five at a staggering 80 km.
Schaab says of this event, “All your food, clothing and medical supplies are carried on your back, with only water being supplied by the event volunteers and medical team. You are also supplied a tent that you share with other runners from around the world. Obviously, there are no showers available in the desert so after seven days we were all smelling pretty bad. The mental aspect of the race was far more difficult than the physical aspect. I’m not a big fan of heights, and so there were a couple times I had to really suck it up and talk myself through it. During the 80-km day, we hit a pretty big windstorm which limited visibility for a while ... I eventually finished that leg of the race after 1 a.m. Running in the desert at night with nothing but a headlamp was a bit scary at times, but thankfully I was able to team up with another runner from New Zealand, and together that night we limped to the finish line.
“At the end of it all, I placed 35th place out of 82 runners. I believe 12 runners didn't finish. Overall I only sustained minor injuries, which included some pretty nasty foot blisters, a sprained knee and a pretty bad sunburn on my lips. I think the most difficult part of the adventure were the cold nights. The Atacama dipped to below zero temperatures at night, and because I had to carry everything on my back, I had a very limited amount of warm clothing for the nights. All the food I brought was in freeze dried form, and although it supplied some good calories, it wasn't a lot. I believe following the race I weighed less than 175 lbs, far below what I normally weigh. What I will remember the most are all the friendships that were created in Chile. We all had a different story, but the same goal. That was very special to me and I will forever have a strong bond with these runners.”
Schaab adds, “Training for this event was intense. Overall, I ran 1,700 kilometres during the six months prior to the race, with roughly half of that with the backpack on. Being a Calgary resident, it was hard to mimic the desert so it did become a struggle at times to find the right terrain to train on. However, there are some amazing trails here in the city along with some great training facilities, so it was fun.”
You can find more information about the event on the website www.racingtheplanet.com, as well as searching the many videos on YouTube about this run.
Schaab has a wife and two children and says they all seem to have their favourite sport, but he is the one who truly enjoys running. His wife is a ski coach at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary, his daughter is big into fitness and his son plays hockey, all which keeps them happy and motivated
Schaab says the next race he plans on competing in will be the Gobi Desert in Mongolia in 2020 or 2021, which is the same format as the Atacama.