After 24,901 miles, Mason professor ready for a second lap

When John Schreifels broke through the toilet paper that served as a makeshift finish line for his July 17 run, he put his hands in the air in celebration.

The easy half-mile jaunt through his Warrenton, Va., neighborhood, with his two daughters and four grandkids in tow, gave the George Mason University chemistry professor 24,901 miles as a runner, equal to the circumference of the earth.

“It made for a lot of emotions,” he said.

Not only because he finished a personal challenge that began in 1991, but because of what has gone along with it.

July 17 is the birthday of Schreifel’s younger brother, Tom, who died eight years ago at age 56 of lung cancer. To reach the milestone that day was special.

The endeavor also brought attention to the John A. Schreifels Chemistry Scholarship, given three years running through the College of Science to a student in recognition of academic achievement and leadership.

Schreifels, 67, began endowing the scholarship in 2008 with $3,000 received from George Mason for a Teaching Excellence Award. The endowment is now at about $53,500, he said, including $13,000 raised in the past year after Schreifels’ running received television and newspaper coverage.

“Absolutely amazing,” said senior chemistry major Greg Petruncio, who received $1,000 as this year’s scholarship recipient. “The fact that he did this fun challenge for himself and that people could pour money into this pot for students is awesome.”

Next for Schreifels is a yearlong research sabbatical at Mason’s Science and Technology Campus, where he will conduct experiments to detect diseases with the use of a mass spectrometer he will redesign for that purpose.

He also will keep running, despite some physical challenges, averaging about 4½ miles a day, all documented on a spreadsheet.

“My last week, my left hip was hurting, my left knee was all swollen up, my right ankle was all swollen up. But other than that I was doing pretty well,” Schreifels said, laughing.

“I enjoy running,” he added. “Why not set goals? Why not try to meet goals?”

Like running the equivalent of around the world.

“Actually,” Schreifels said, “I plan on starting my second lap.”