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Bill Schroeder offers runners options with Vern's No Frills races, training groups

Brom Hoban, Central Texas Running

Staff Writer
Austin 360

As a captain in the Air Force, Bill Schroeder ran track and cross country, competing on behalf of his country around the world.

Now 48, Schroeder still runs a competitive 5K — he won his age group last month at the Komen Race for the Cure — but he is focusing on helping others compete.

As an antidote to high race fees, and to coax novices to the starting line, Schroeder created the "Vern's No Frills" 5K races, which are run year-round in Georgetown.

"Vern's No Frills 5K started in April 2009 as a way to encourage runners and walkers to get out and race without the expense," he says. "It's officially timed and is free to students K-12 and only $1 for adults.

"A lot of times, races are intimidating or cost a lot. I want to encourage kids to run. We've had school buses full of kids pull up to run Vern's 5K. We've gotten as many as 200 runners."

The 5K is scheduled on the third Saturday of each month at 8 a.m., at Berry Springs Park and Preserve in Georgetown. The event name is a tribute to Vern Cantwell, a friend of Schroeder's who died of a heart attack while cycling.

Schroeder says the costs of putting on the races are minimal, and any profit from the small entry fee goes to Berry Springs Park and Preserve.

The flat, fast course is on trails within the preserve, and is great for anyone seeking a quick time. The course record is a 16:11, set by 2010 high school state cross country champion Craig Lutz of Flower Mound Marcus.

Schroeder also is the race director for the Round Rock Independent School District Project Graduation 5K, which is scheduled March 5 at the Dell Diamond. The race is hosted by the Round Rock Express.

"I had run the race before when my son was a student at Stony Point," he says. "Every year, they had to change parents to get a new race director, so I told them I'd take over as the permanent race director."

Schroeder also helps runners prepare for races, leading two free weekly training groups — one in Cedar Park and one in Round Rock — called "No Excuses — except lightning."

The groups meet informally to warm up around 5:45 p.m., and start the workout at 6 sharp. "We start with drills, and then runners choose a short or long workout. Afterwards, we cool down, and then do group stretching. We're usually done around 7 p.m.," says Schroeder.

Schroeder's Monday group meets at Cedar Valley Middle School in Round Rock and does 5K/10K training on the track. His Wednesday group meets at Brushy Creek Lake Park in Cedar Park.

"We run that one on the Brushy Creek Trail. I consider it more of a strength training workout," he says. "We'll do about three or four miles of half-mile intervals on the trail. There are quarter-mile markers on the trail, so that helps. The whole idea is to make it casual and fun. We typically have 40-60 runners of all abilities — everyone from slower runners to very competitive racers."

Schroeder is a project manager at Dell, where he has been captain of the running team for the past five years and coaching employees as they prepare for the Komen Race for the Cure 5K.

"Bill is definitely someone who is giving back more than his share," says Patrick Hall, a training buddy of Schroeder's. "The North Austin/Round Rock running community is especially indebted to him. His workouts are a lot of fun and make the ‘hard' part of running very pleasant."

Upcoming races

Saturday: Resolution Run 5K, 11 a.m. at St. Philip's United Methodist Church, 16321 Great Oaks Dr., Round Rock. See www.resrun.org.