Meet Leigh Ann Schultz
It’s a slippery slope from the D.C. suburbs to a muddy, sleet-whipped island off the coast of Antarctica. Just ask Leigh Ann Schultz, formerly a Director with AlixPartners, an active AlixAlumni member, and a textbook high achiever who recently completed a half-marathon at an Antarctic outpost.
Leigh Ann, a financial executive, first worked with AlixPartners as a client on a Chapter 11 case in the early 2000s, then joined the team in 2004. In 2009, she transferred from AlixPartners’ Dallas office to the D.C. office and found herself in a “freakishly athletic neighborhood” where group runs were the favored social outing, a sport that lent itself quite nicely to the consultant life, always available when she was traveling.
Positive pressure to get active escalated from “Let's go run this race and then I'll host brunch at my house,” to “let's go run this 200-mile overnight relay in bourbon country,” says Leigh Ann.
A cluster of Antarctic shags on King George Island, off the coast of the Antarctic peninsula.
She and her husband began to compete in triathlons. That led to four full Ironman-distance races, 13 half Ironman-distance, and a number of Olympic- and sprint-distance triathlons, then a pivot to marathons: 50 marathons in 50 states before starting in on the Abbott World Majors—Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London, New York, and Tokyo—which in turn inspired them to try knocking out a marathon on each continent.
Which brings us to Antarctica.
Leigh Ann applied to run the Antarctica race in 2019. With a three to four year waiting list, just getting accepted is a challenge. Once accepted and the trip commences, runners meet up in Buenos Aires, Argentina and then take a private charter flight to Ushuaia, Argentina, To get to King George Island from Ushuaia—the southernmost city in the world—you must board a ship and voyage for two days across the Drake Passage, which runs between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and, famously, can feel like being in a washing machine.
Then, you suit up in rubber boots, waterproof pants, and a life jacket with your dry bag full of items to get you through a self-supported marathon. Appropriately swaddled, you board a Zodiac boat.
Leigh Ann Schultz traveled to Antarctica to complete a half-marathon in tough conditions.
At the time of the event, the wind chill temperature was somewhere between freezing and 15 degrees Fahrenheit (Leigh Ann and her husband have different recollections); suffice to say it was a hard way to do a marathon: on an out-and-back route over roads churned up by the rubber tracks of the off-road machines running between international research stations. Leigh Ann completed the half marathon, while her husband, normally a four-hour marathoner, spent six hours and 45 minutes doing the full.
“It was very hilly,” she recalls. “So when you were running uphill, it was bare rocks. And when you were running [on the] flat, you were going through eight inches of mud, so you had to wear trail shoes with gators that keep debris from getting into your shoes.” As they ran, without aid stations or loved ones clutching encouraging signs, the wind whipped, it rained and sleeted.
Perfect conditions for anyone who loves a challenge, in other words.
Leigh Ann at the finish line.
After leaving AlixPartners, Leigh Ann went to work for the Securities and Exchange Commission, then moved on to private enterprise, and currently daylights as CFO for Harvest Hosts and is chairman of the audit committee for a public telecommunications company by night. The lesson for Leigh Ann through numerous career shifts and hobbies has been that she (and her training partner-husband) increasingly seeks endurance-based challenges that go beyond hitting a PR.
“We went from, hey, let's go as fast as we can and crush it and hit a PR to, let's do these endurance events where you have to have a lot of mental toughness and you're doing it day after day after day and just finishing,” says Leigh Ann. “It was a complete mind shift.”
Leigh Ann and her husband-slash-training partner, Christian.
In the process, she has stayed engaged with old colleagues at AlixPartners, and works to make it to in-person events. It is still part of who she is, says Leigh Ann. She was at AlixPartners through a tough phase of life, “I was a young mom. I had two little kids. I had just gotten remarried, and my husband had a young daughter, so we were integrating two families.” Colleagues provided an important source of support. “I felt in my heart that I was like a family member of AlixPartners.”
Staying active in that community is a matter of “taking advantage of the opportunity and saying yes, and showing up” to events, she says, as well as reaching out to old friends when she’s back in Dallas.
For anyone awed by her accomplishments in the boardroom and out on the trail, Leigh Ann says that her goal setting is a simple process. “It doesn't have to be running marathons. Think about what it is that you want to accomplish and say it out loud, tell your friends, make a checklist and then just go do it.”
Easier said than done.
“It could be having a glass of wine in all 50 states.”
Much more achievable.
These days, when not running, she and her husband also love a game of pickleball, paddle-boarding on the Potomac, and traveling in their Airstream. “We're never just sitting around wondering what we should do,” she says. Up next is completing the Abbott World Majors in Tokyo next spring and then completing the three remaining continents: Africa, Australia, and South America.
Penguins sunning themselves on the Antarctica shore. Tourism is very limited, and the logistics of an endurance event in Antarctica are complex.