Runner Spotlight: Joe Schlereth
by Mark Janik
Joe running past the iconic EPCOT ball in Disney
The Chinese call it nài. Boston Marathoners call it staying power, like the staying power needed for Heartbreak Hill. In Charlotte, we call it Schlereth, as in Joe Schlereth. It all means the same thing wherever your race happens to be. He lives the example of a life of stamina, of staying power, of endurance.
To Joe Schlereth there is no finish line. A comparison certainly not to challenge the average runner. Once this man started on his running journey he never looked back.
Joe started running in 1982 after being cajoled by co workers to do a corporate 5K. The fire was lit. Three years later he made his marathon debut at the Charlotte Observer Marathon logging an impressive 3:20. A year later he lowered his PR to 2:42:51 at the St. George Marathon in UT.
Since that time Joe has run a total of 531 races that are a half marathon or longer! Runner’s World Magazine profiled Joe in their August 1997 issue calling him the “Mega Man”. His running resume is outstanding:
– Ran 18 Boston Marathons in a row (20 total). Best 2:44:17
– Competed in 188 Ultra Marathons. Took first place overall in the Wasatch 100 Mile Endurance Run and finished in the top 10 six times at the iconic Western States 100.
– Has run a total of 87 Disney races. Has a streak of 15 Goofy Challenges.
I had my first conversation with Joe shortly after moving to Charlotte in 2013. I knew he was something very special when he told me that he would run the Ulmstead 100 or 50 mile Endurance race a week or two before running Boston. He did this for 18 years!
Since 2010 he has coached runners of varying ability through the Run Far training program. Last year that group had 420 members. His runners whom he calls his “SpeedDemons” love and admire him so much that they built a headstone in his honor and sponsor a bench plaque along his favorite running route.
Joe and Arun (top)
Will this energized man ever slow down? Well in 2020 he covered more miles on foot and ran more races (most virtual) than in any time in his running career. His good friend and fellow coach Melissa Seuster said “he continues to inspire new runners and has become a mentor and friend to hundreds of others”.
This passage seems an appropriate close to epitomize the incredible accomplishments of Joe Schlereth:
“Keep running the race that is set before you with endurance” Hebrews 12:1
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