Flynn Schulz started running as a boy and, for the next 20 years, he never stopped -- whether it was 100 miles of precarious terrain or in a red dress to garner laughs.
"He was one outstanding competitor and anything he put his mind to, he was fast, the fastest of the fast," said Jay Grimes, 29, of Moline. "That guy was one mean athlete with one gigantic heart."
Mr. Grimes still chokes up at the thought that his friend since elementary school is gone.
Friends said Mr. Schulz, 33, of Davenport, attended a concert Friday with girlfriend, Beth, in The District in Rock Island. By Saturday, friends and family grew concerned when they hadn't heard from him.
Police pulled Mr. Shulz's body from the Mississippi River Sunday up river of Sunset Marina in Rock Island. His cause of death has not been released; Rock Island County Coroner Brian Gustafson said toxicology reports are pending and no autopsy is planned.
"I can't even tell you how devastated the entire group (of friends) was," Mr. Grimes said, choking up. "I've never seen anything like this."
A memorial service for Mr. Schulz is scheduled from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday at his parents' home in Coal Valley.
A Fierce Motivator
Born in Fargo, N.D., the son of Rick and Pam Schulz, he moved to the Quad-Cities when he was 2. The avid soccer player passed on his love of the game to his younger brother, Ry, and Ry's best friend, Mr. Grimes.
At 6-foot-4, Mr. Grimes said he looked forward to receiving hand-me-downs from Mr. Schulz, who was 6-foot-2.
"We both had gigantic feet, so he gave me old soccer shoes that wouldn't fit anyone but me," Mr. Grimes said.
After graduating from Moline High School, Mr. Schulz enlisted in the National Guard in 2000 and, in 2003, met Michael Kinney at a training camp. Theywere computer operators before deploying for a year-long stint near Baghdad where Flynn was a team leader, and Mr. Kinney worked at a prison.
"From the first day, he was a great guy," said Mr. Kinney, 29, of Rock Island. "It was pretty difficult having long days that didn't run together."
After their service, the two reconnected and became roommates in Rock Island. Mr. Kinney said he buried himself in work, with little exercise, until Mr. Schulz signed him up for a four-mile run near Duck Creek.
The race was a struggle, Mr. Kinney said. Mr. Schulz finished much earlier, he said, but returned to shoutwords of encouragement.
"He always knew what it would take to get you going," Mr. Kinney said.
A Red Dress for Every Occasion
In 2010, Mr. Schulz joined the Quad City Hash House Harriers who annually host aRed Dress Run, with participants donning frocks to raise money for the American Heart Association.
"It's 14 degrees out, and here he is in this tiny spaghetti-string red dress with the biggest smile on his face," recalled Hash founder Nathan Tackett, 39, of East Moline.
The dress appeared at more than a few races, he said, often with Mr. Schulz shimmying into it at the last minute for the final leg of a race. Occasionally, a blond wig was added.
"He did everything 100 percent. If he was going to wear a red dress, he was going to wear that blond wig too," Mr. Kinney said with a laugh. "There was no way Flynn was going to be a bad-looking woman, beard and all."
Hasher-themed running laps further inspired his outfits.
"One time he dressed up in full animal skin, a sword and an ax. He had weaponry and had one heck of an elaborate Viking costume," Mr. Grimes said. "We just ran through the streets, yelling like Vikings, just laughing so hard."
A Humble Hasher
Earlier this year, Mr. Schulz ran the maximum 150 miles of a two-day Potawatomi trail run in preparation for the 100-mile Leadville Trail run in Colorado.His family cried as he reached the finish line, Mr. Grimes said.
"I could just read it in Flynn how proud he was," he said.
Mr. Schulz also hosted intense workouts for the Hashers, events that became known as "Flynn Fit" exercises.
"He was a supporting pillar in the group," Mr. Grimes said. "He was just so motivating, so much amazing attitude that went into it. He had a style unlike anyone else's."
Shy to accept praise, Mr. Schulz instead showed his appreciation for other runners with homemade photo collages, belt buckles and quirky poems.
"It's sort of a glimpse into his mind -- a bit rambling at times, but always funny," Mr. Tackett said. "He'd capture little things that other people might miss.
"Really sweet," he added. "We're all going to miss that."
Mr. Schulz's running friends planned to meet last night -- all wearing red dresses -- to honor him with original poems.They also hope to organize a memorial run to raise money for the Wounded Warrior project, which Mr. Schulz supported through his "Team Not Forgotten" with Mr. Tackett and Mr. Kinney.
"He was the most amazing man I ever met," Mr. Tackett said.
Mr. Kinney said Mr. Schulz stopped by his office a few days before his death.
"He talked dreams to me," Mr. Kinney said.
Mr. Schulz, a JMTC project manager at the Rock Island Arsenal, had goals of starting his own company to train and motivate people seeking to accomplish athletic ventures. "To believe in the impossible," is how Mr. Schulz put it.
It's that legacy, Mr. Tackett says, will live on.
"If everyone would just try to be like that, to try to see how it canhappen rather than why it can't," he said. "That was his personality to a T."