Tuesday, April 27, 2010

This marathoner is an above-average Joe

Officially, the Boston Marathon on April 19 marked Joe Schlereth's 100th marathon.

Unofficially, the Pineville financial services executive runs more than 3-1/2 marathons a week. And that's "down some from past years," he says.

But though he recently turned 60, and though relatively speaking he may be slowing down a bit, he's still pretty darn speedy: In his 10th Boston Marathon, Schlereth ran a 3:33:40, the 45th-fastest time out of 634 runners in his age group.

If his name sounds familiar, that's because he is -- to many -- an ultrarunning legend. Over the course of his nearly 30-year running career, he's posted six top-10 finishes at the Western States 100-mile endurance run; he won the Wasatch 100; and he survived Badwater, the approximately 146-mile run from Death Valley (the lowest point in the continental U.S.) to Mt. Whitney (the highest). Later this year, he plans to run his 150th ultramarathon.

And it all started for him the way it starts for many of us. "My company was putting together a team to run the 1982 United Way Corporate Cup Challenge 5K," says Schlereth. "I decided to give it a try to see if I could do it."

Q. Congratulations on hitting the century mark in Boston. How'd it go up there last Monday, and what -- beyond it being No. 100 -- will you remember about this particular race?

I had a great time in Boston. I was able to share this accomplishment with friends who were there to support me -- and I knew there were a lot of people in Charlotte who were supporting me from a distance. Weather was good and I ran just about the time I expected, even though I had a head cold or sinus infection. ... Running a 100-mile race three weeks before also adds some challenge. It was at Umstead State Park in Raleigh [and I did it] with a good friend, Kathy Lee, from Charlotte.

Q. Does Boston live up to the hype?

Boston is special because you need to qualify to get there. ... There is great support there and Boston is special due to the tradition and history.

Q. Do you prefer smaller races?

I like all races, small or large!

Q. What's the most memorable race you've ever run?

Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run

Q. The toughest?

Badwater, from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney.

Q. I'm told you were in Leadville when the Tarahumara Indians ran it. Did you cross paths with any of them?

Yes. I ran Leadville twice with the Tarahumara Indians as well as Western States 100 and Angeles Crest 100. They are amazing runners, running in sandals and native attire.

Q. What did you think of the book "Born to Run"?

Great book -- brought back a lot of memories of Leadville, Angela's Crest, and Western States.

Q. What kind of shoes do you run in?

Asics 2140.

Q. What kind of mileage are you running on a weekly basis?

This year about 95 per week so far. Down some from past years.

Q. I read that one year, back in the '90s, you logged 9,000 miles in one year. Is this true?

Yes, the article was in Runner's World in August 1997. I ran over 9,000 miles in 1996. I was training approximately 170 miles per week.

Q. I guess I wonder ... why? To normal people -- even to most runners -- this is crazy. What drove you back when you were doing that insane mileage, and what continues to drive you today?

I like running. In the past, the more I ran, the better I placed. I was able to do it, so I did it. I really enjoyed it. Today, fitness, routine, companionship, friends keep me going. Overall, I just like running, and I'm happy I can still do it.

Q. What do you do to cope with boredom on long runs, or in long races?

I try to run with others for conversation and companionship. When I'm out there by myself, I concentrate on foot plants, I think about the next aid station, what I need to do [in regards to] nutrition, "do I need to change clothes?", et cetera. A lot of the runs are trail runs, so the beauty of nature helps keep me going.

Q. How do you manage to do that mileage without getting injured?

Over the years, I have been very fortunate to have limited injuries. I also think I have good mechanics. When I have a problem, I also have good medical support thanks to Carolina Sports Clinic. Recently, I have had hamstring and IT band injuries that I continue to push through so I can get back out there and run.

Q. You just turned 60 in March. How has getting older altered your perspective on running?

I am less competitive as I get older. Trust me, I am still competitive, but less so than I used to be. I am running a bit less now, and enjoy it more for the social aspect.

Q. What advice would you give to someone who has done marathons and is interested in trying an ultra?

Just do it! Sign up, and give it a try. Expectation would be to cross the finish line and enjoy it. Once you accomplish that, then if you want to do another one, then you can focus more on a finish time. For training, I would recommend increasing two weekly runs by about four miles each and increasing weekend runs to build a strong base for longer distances. Back-to-back long runs on weekends works best for me.

Q. You've hit 100 marathons, you'll hit 150 ultras later this year. So what's next?

I am helping a very good friend qualify for Boston. Seeing her qualify and run Boston would be very special. Going forward, I would like to help others enjoy long-distance running as much as I have. I also hope to continue to run as long as my body will hold out! After that, maybe I'll start doing triathlons.


Anonymous said...

I had no idea I was running with a legend @racefest.

Dexter said...

Joe is a great runner and has inspired me to just do it. He makes you feel like there is no obstacle you can't handle. That running is just something you do to hang with some good friends and have good conversation with. look forward to hanging out with Joe soon


Anonymous said...

Awesome Story and I too am honored to have run Racefest with a legend. OK, now I feel like an idiot whining about running 2 half marathons within a month!! His story is truly inspirational to all runners!!!

Michele said...

Congrats Joe! Glad to have seen you in airport on way to Boston and return with your big achievement. See you soon on the Greenway.

Anonymous said...

Wow, what an inspiration to all runners!!

findingjudi said...

Great to see that Joe is still running! I worked with him in Ballantyne 7 or so years ago and was impressed when I found out how much he runs.