Leslie Postmaster Jan Schmidt hasn’t always been a runner, but after just five years of the sport, it’s now something he can’t imagine living without.

Schmidt typically spends his lunch break each day taking a three- to four-mile run along Little Creek Road, and his calendar is filled with upcoming distance runs.

He doesn’t like to call those “competitive,” because he doesn’t feel he’s much competition for the other runners.

“I’m so slow,” he said, with a grin. “I run about a 10-minute mile, but most guys my age, in the 64-65 category, run about a 7 1/2- to 8-minute mile.”

Still, Schmidt has a number of medals from runs he’s been in all over the country, from La Jolla, Calif., to Nashville, Tenn.

Yet speed isn’t the reason Schmidt runs. Neither is winning.

He runs for his health and for the joy of the experience.

Eats Abundance of

Raw, Natural Foods

Schmidt began distance running in 2007 as a way to improve his overall health.

“My family has a history of stroke and I have a clogged blood vessel in my heart,” he said. “I smoked for years, and my parents did too. They both died young.”

Schmidt takes medicine for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Since he’s been running, he’s been able to eliminate one prescription and cut the dosage he needs of two others in half.

“My goal is to get off the meds completely,” he said.

That has prompted him also to change his eating habits. His diet now is heavy on fruits and vegetables, some pasta and a limited amount of meat. He cut out the coffee and replaced it with green tea.

“I was raised on a meat and potatoes diet — you know, that German heritage,” said Schmidt. “But I want to eat more healthy and eat foods that give me energy to run.”

He finds that fruits like oranges, apples and bananas, plus water give him more natural energy in distance running than processed gel packs and so-called “energy” or “sports” drinks.

Seeing the movie “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead,” about one man’s mission to regain his health by trading junk food for a juicer, encouraged him to take his healthy eating even further.

“I have looked at all my food choices for all of my meals,” said Schmidt. “I want to be able to have sustained energy, and the best choices for that are raw foods with natural color.

“Yellow, red and green peppers are great, blueberries, tomatoes . . . ”

Schmidt has a juicer that he uses to make drinks, even his own salad dressing.

A typical day of food for Schmidt would include, for breakfast, a fruits and vegetables drink made (using his juicer) of celery, carrot, kale, green apple and ginger root;

For lunch, he might eat a bowl of oatmeal with raisins and soy milk or a salad with a mix of greens (like kale), broccoli, cucumber, yellow pepper, red onion, mushroom . . . ;

For a snack he would eat something like a Fuji apple or a Cuties orange; and then for dinner he might choose spaghetti, sometimes with ground chuck, sometimes plain, or perhaps a cut of meat or fish.

“I will eat meat and fish, I just don’t eat a lot of it,” said Schmidt. “I try to stay away from animal products. I get my protein from fish or beans.”

He likes to make soup and stews using pulp left over from the drinks he makes with his juicer.

“I freeze (the pulp) into little bags and then take them out to make a soup or maybe use in some muffins,” said Schmidt.

All of this isn’t to say that Schmidt doesn’t enjoy sweets or other edible guilty pleasures every now and then.

“A Snickers bar is the best energy bar there is,” he said, smiling. “And I will eat dark chocolate and pizza.”

It’s all about moderation, Schmidt stressed.

‘Joy Is to Be Out There’

Schmidt runs with the St. Louis Track Club and other groups. Over the years, he has completed runs of 5, 10, 15 miles and many distances in between.

His most recent was running 5 miles on March 17 as part of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in downtown St. Louis.

This month he has two runs planned — the first is April 7 in Columbia. It combines a 2 1/2-mile run with a 15-mile bike ride followed by another 2 1/2-mile run. The second event is the Go! St. Louis half marathon on April 15. Schmidt plans to run that with his daughter, Chelsea.

“People ask me why if I live in Gerald do I go all the way to Forest Park to run,” said Schmidt. “And I say, ‘Because it’s so much more enjoyable when you’re surrounded by other people doing the same thing.’

“There are people all over the park who are running, riding bikes, rollerblading . . . When we pass each other, we acknowledge each other and it’s just really nice.

“The joy is to be out there with everyone . . . the camaraderie of it.”

Along with running, Schmidt makes time for stretching every day and occasionally he also will do meditation, or at least just sit still for a period in the morning.

“I find running meditative,” he said. “Meditation is about enjoying what you’re doing while you’re doing it.”

Over 800 Deliveries a Day

Schmidt grew up in South St. Louis and attended Cleveland High School.

He served in the U.S. Navy from 1967 to 1970 during the Vietnam War as a boiler tender charged with maintaining the front fire room on the USS Walke, DD-723.

Schmidt has been postmaster in Leslie for 10 years and moved to this area five years ago. The office covers 800 deliveries on a daily basis, he said.

People who come into the office chit chat with Schmidt. They’re concerned that the Leslie post office may be closed soon if the U.S. Postal Service gets its way as a way to save money.

Schmidt worries too. Closing the post office would be a blow to the community, he said.

“We’ve developed such a rapport. Even if people don’t have a package to mail or something, it’s the camaraderie, the people stopping in to talk.

“I’ve watched small children grow up here. I’ve seen one young man go from high school to college to the Marines.”

Every other customer who comes in asks Schmidt if he’s been given any new information.

“It’s still undecided,” he said.