Audrey eyes the Boston Marathon

Many date the first Olympic games, which started as a footrace at Mt. Olympia, back to 756 B.C. Only Greek males were allowed to participate in the games held every four years between the city-states of Greece, with the winners being presented with an olive branch wreath and red tunic and becoming the most highly heralded citizens. By 720 B.C. the tradition began with the athletes performing nude, and with married women not allowed to attend the games. Unmarried young women got their own games when Hera’s Games at Mt. Olympia began around 600 B.C. The Olympic games expanded to include such as long distance running, boxing, chariot races, wrestling, the five-sport pentathlon, and the Pankration, which was a combination of boxing and wrestling. After the Romans took control of Greece and with the coming of Christianity, the Olympics were banned because of their pagan-themed orgins.

In 1896 Greece successfully revived the Olympic games, this time with more clothing for the participants. The games were an inspiration for the world, especially the marathon run. Buffalo, New York soon held their Turkey Trot run, while five months later the greater Boston area hosted the first Boston Marathon with 15 participants. Normally held on Patriots Day, the third Monday in April, the 26.2 mile course begins in Hopkinton and finishes at Copley Square in Boston. The race, which now attracts around 30,000 participants and 500,000 onlookers, has continued to be run every year, including through the Depression and World War II, but has been postponed this year for a later month because of virus epidemic.

A normal noon time can find me walking my little dog Louie around the nearly mile long course at Wayne Hansard Park. The park is popular with ball players, disc golfers, bicyclists, runners and walkers, and is a good place to meet nice folks. As Louie and I walk our mile, it’s common for us to be passed by runners. I admire those runners because it takes me back to my military days where an annual physical test included a two-mile run. In my younger days, those runs weren’t particularly difficult, but became more so as my years advanced.

Of those runners passing me and Louie, one stood out in particular. It was a long-legged young woman who passed us four or five times in our mile walk. Her running seemed almost effortless and very fluid, and after her trips around the track, she would continue running around other areas of the park and even up the nearby road. I can’t remember ever having seen such a natural runner.

Terry Dailey is the popular manager of the Wayne Hansard Park and works tirelessly at keeping it in prime shape. Brian Smith is a regular walker at the park, who doesn’t let any weather keep him from many daily trips around the course. When I mentioned the lady runner to Terry and Brian, they explained she was preparing for the Boston Marathon. It seems very significant Morristown be represented in that world famous race, and I soon met with that impressive runner, Audrey Schlutt, to learn about her story.

Originally from St. Joseph in southwest Michigan, Audrey is the daughter of bakery owners Dale and Sandra Schlutt and has a two-years-younger brother, Jake. She graduated from Lakeshore High School in 2009 before attending Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids where she studied graphic design and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 2013.

Following her graduation, she worked as a graphic designer at Petoskey Plastics, on the shore of Lake Michigan in north central Michigan. She currently works at the Morristown Petoskey factory in the Airport Industrial Park near Wayne Hansard Park. Audrey told of her beginnings as a runner and her move to Morristown.

“I played soccer in high school,” she started. “To get into shape to play midfield and get more playing time, I’d run after practice and I fell in love with running. My mom was a track star in cross-country in high school and I joke that I got it from her. I’m very competitive, enjoyed the race aspect, and running became my outlet. While I was in college I joined the intermural running team and I started running more and more races with them while working my way up to half-marathons.

“I’ve ran in 11 marathons and wanted to do one a month in 2019, but only done five. My first marathon was in 2016 with a time of three hours and 54 minutes. I wanted to try it and overcome my fear of the big race, and I fell in love with the distance after that. A marathon is 26.2 miles and it takes me at least a week to recover from a race. I did win first place in the Millenium Meadows Marathon in Grand Rapids last year and used that time to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

“I’d worked in northern Michigan for five years and wanted warmer weather and a new change. My company has another location here in Morristown. I had visited here a couple of times and loved everything about East Tennessee. I moved here September 19 last year and work in the marketing department as a senior graphics engineer.

“During the week I’ll run five to 10 miles a day and do longer 15- to 18-mile runs on the weekends. I always wear Brooks shoes because of prior stress problems and haven’t had any since. My marathon goal is to beat my last time and come in at the three hour mark. My current fastest marathon time is three hours and 17 minutes, which I ran at the Chicago Marathon this past fall.

“Because the altitude and humidity here are higher than in Michigan, it was a bit difficult for me to run when I first came here. Elevation training strengthens a runner and that’s why you see professional runners go out west for their training. I’m hoping to run in the Boston Marathon, but whatever happens happens. My advice for a person who wants to begin running is to just get out and walk, then run for a minute and keep increasing your range.”

Life passes quickly and some choose to sit back and wait for it to pass. Others extend their lives to the maximum. If you see Audrey run, you will witness how much one can extend their abilities. She’ll join Doug Dibbs, Shanda Mattis, Andee Swann, Malcolm Oliver, Libby Overholt and other local folks who have represented Morristown in the Boston Marathon. We’re proud that Morristown and East Tennessee will have Audrey representing us in the marathon’s 123rd run, which now should occur around September.

-Jim Claborn is a retired history teacher and a historical reenactor, as well as a published historian.