Grandma's Marathon: His brother's keeper

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 20, 2014 - 1:08 AM

Richard Schletty runs to fulfill his late brother’s goal.

Richard Schletty plans to run in Grandma’s on Saturday and 11 more marathons after that, so he and his late brother Joe, together, complete 200. That was the milestone Joe Schletty set for himself before he died in 2012. “I just keep thinking of Joe as I go out and run,” Richard said. ELIZABETH FLORES • eflores@ startribune.com

Photo: Elizabeth Flores,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Richard Schletty will toe the starting line Saturday at Grandma’s, his 189th marathon in a quest for 200 that started more than four decades ago.

Richard only claims one of them … so far. The other 187 belong to his late brother Joe, who through his own infectiousness dragged his friends and family kicking, screaming and laughing into his passion for running.

Months after Joe, a gregarious 6--4 lifetime athlete and occasional smoker, died from lung cancer at age 64, Richard laced up for the first time in more than a decade, at Grandma’s in 2012. Though the experience was emotional, Richard couldn’t finish. But in 2013, he and 14 other friends ran the Twin Cities Marathon, symbolically closing Joe’s unfulfilled gap.

Long after picking up running with Joe the first time around, the fever caught Richard once more, for the same reason: staying close to Joe.

“I just keep thinking of Joe as I go out and run,” said Richard, a 61-year-old commercial artist and web designer. “He had 13 left. I wanted to complete them on my own.”

Joe’s leadership was always evident — just ask the handful of relatives and friends who became marathon runners.

It began almost by accident. Joe threw the discus and shot at St. Agnes High School, inspiring Richard to do the same. Then after Joe returned from four years in Vietnam as an electronic technician for the U.S. Marine Corps, he picked up running to stay in shape.

The pied piper

But if running was a lonely sport, Joe quickly changed that. First came Larry Mike, Joe’s cousin and one of his best friends. Mike was living in Buffalo, Minn., but caught the bug through frequent phone calls with his pal. Joe quickly had become enthralled with the sport, knocking off as many as 12 marathons in some years. With Joe as his “coach,” Mike began to join his cousin, traveling first to Winnipeg for a 26.2-mile run in 1980, proof of which hangs in a picture in his Inver Grove Heights living room.

“I never had any intention of running a marathon, but he kind of led us down that path,” Mike said.

Richard, tall and stocky like his brother, started running around 1984. He and Joe had side-by-side houses, purchased from their parents, on Cherokee Avenue in St. Paul. Joe’s personal best for a marathon was 3 hours, 8 minutes in 1988, Richard’s was 3:51 in 1983. Mike moved across the alleyway from the Schlettys in 1987.

The three dubbed themselves the Bushrunners Running Club, named after their starting spot at the bushes in Cherokee Park. Joe’s enthusiasm grew the group. Mike’s brothers — Joe, Bernie and Ben — jumped in. Then came Karl Stadstad, Mike’s brother-in-law; and John Wenker and Jimmy Peterson, a pair of close friends in the area. All of them ran marathons, continuing for more than two decades.

Through it all, Joe would keep his fellow runners motivated and entertained, ripping on one guy’s gait or telling jokes until they begged him to stop lest their muscles revolt from the laughter.

“We always said he was full of baloney,” said Larry Mike, 60. “But he was hilarious … We always said this guy was going to live forever.”

A sudden turn

In the summer of 2012, the invincibility cracked. After running Grandma’s — his 187th marathon — in slightly longer than five hours in June, Joe’s recovery lagged. He had been full of energy as he started building a garage a month earlier, but by July, watching from next door, Richard saw something foreign. The man his friends nicknamed “Iron Man” and “The Godfather” wobbled across the yard. When Joe spoke, the words, still peppered with wisecracks, came out slowly.

Tests ran in August suggested only pneumonia. A month later, however, Joe received the diagnosis: an aggressive form of lung cancer that had spread to his brain.

The disease quickly took over, claiming first his ability to run, then to walk. He never complained, Mike said, except to lament that he couldn’t even manage to hobble to the bushes, where the friends began their runs for so many years.

  • related content

  • Grandma's Marathon facts

    Thursday June 19, 2014

    GRANDMA’S MARATHONWhere: Two Harbors to DuluthWhen: Saturday; Marathon begins at 7:45 a.m., Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon at 6:15 a.m.Entrants: 7,964...

  • Richard Schletty ran near the home where he grew up Thursday, June 19, 2014 in St. Paul, MN. His brother, Joe Schletty set the goal of running 200 marathons. After No. 187, at age 64, Joe was diagnosed with lung cancer, passing away shortly afterward. Schletty is now determined to pick up where his late brother left off.

  • GRANDMA’S MARATHON

    Saturday, 7:45 a.m., Two Harbors to Duluth

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Cleveland - WP: C. Allen 4 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: G. Holland 3
Baltimore - LP: W. Chen 0 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: M. Pineda 5
Kansas City - WP: D. Duffy 2 FINAL
Cleveland - LP: C. Carrasco 0
Seattle - LP: J. Paxton 4 FINAL
Toronto - WP: J. Happ 14
Chicago WSox - WP: C. Bassitt 2 FINAL
Detroit - LP: K. Lobstein 0
Pittsburgh - WP: F. Liriano 1 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: A. Harang 0
Houston - LP: N. Tropeano 3 FINAL
Texas - WP: D. Holland 4
St. Louis - WP: A. Wainwright 8 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: T. Wood 0
Arizona - WP: J. Collmenter 6 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: R. Nolasco 2
LA Angels - LP: C. Wilson 4 FINAL
Oakland - WP: J. Samardzija 8
San Francisco - WP: S. Casilla 5 FINAL
Los Angeles - LP: K. Correia 2
Colorado - LP: T. Matzek 0 FINAL
San Diego - WP: E. Stults 1
Chicago 27 FINAL
NY Jets 19
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Buffalo 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Green Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Tennessee 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Carolina 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Detroit 9/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Tampa Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Miami 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Oakland
Jacksonville 9/28/14 3:05 PM
San Diego
Atlanta 9/28/14 3:25 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 9/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
New Orleans 9/28/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Ottawa 2 FINAL
NY Islanders 3
Ottawa 2 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
New Jersey 5 FINAL
NY Rangers 4
Detroit 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Toronto 3 FINAL
Philadelphia 2
Washington 4 FINAL
Philadelphia 5
Minnesota 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Dallas 4
Anaheim 5 FINAL
Colorado 2
Colorado 0 FINAL
Anaheim 4
Los Angeles 4 FINAL
Arizona 5
Arizona 3 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(22) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(13) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary

ADVERTISEMENT

Advertisement
Golden Gavel by Star Tribune

Time left for great deals

Bid thru Sept. 29

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Grade the Vikings offense

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close