Grandma’s Marathon and a dream deferred ~ for now

Grandma’s Marathon and a dream deferred ~ for now…

Back on July 18, 2014, I pressed the enter key and registered for the 2015 Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota. I soon received my registration confirmation, race shirt and lots of exciting details about the marathon and all of the activities and events surrounding it.

Dear Sharon Couto,

Thank you for registering for the 39th annual Grandma‘s Marathon to be held on Saturday, June 20, 2015.

My head swirled with both exhilaration and anticipation about the 11 months ahead of me. This would be my 3rd marathon, but the one that would bring my very past and present together.

This would solidify, I thought, my dream of truly being a marathoner.

I came late to running in 2008, at 56 years old, wanting to participate with my kids and grandkids in their athletic endeavors and fun, rather than watching and cheering from the sidelines.

I dreamed of running a 5k. That’s it. 3.1 miles.

It would be a short, exhausting run around my neighborhood block, in borrowed-from-my-daughter running shoes, that became the first steps to my dream.

I did that 5k, and like so many, many people who catch the running “bug,”  I kept running ~ onto 5 milers, 10ks, half marathons, two 70.3s and two marathons.

My first marathon, Cox Providence in May 2011, was very close to home where I felt comfortable with the course and had lots of cheering family and friends, and especially my grandkids…


My second marathon was powerful, emotional and large – Marine Corps in October 2012 – running alongside my daughter-in-law Nicole…


I thought I was two-and-through with marathons and marathon training, happy to have accomplished a seemingly elusive dream ~ twice… but then Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota entered my radar.

You see, I’m a GRANDMA, a Grandma of 11. I love the name and history and logistics of this marathon…

26.2 | Grandma’s Marathon

June 20, 2015

“What else could you want in a marathon? Grandma’s Marathon starts in the middle of the woods, runs along the beautiful shores of Lake Superior and finishes at a pub.” – Garry Bjorklund

I love that my own paternal grandmother, MY very own Grandma, was born in Hibbing, Minnesota, just a bit north of Duluth. I had never been to Minnesota, where my ancestors had settled so long ago as miners in a new country, having immigrated from Czechoslovakia. By the time I was born, my Grandma had moved to Michigan, where I was brought to my first home, my Grandma’s farm.

Everything pointed to running this marathon, in Minnesota, with a little exploration of this region with my husband and partner and biggest fan, Barry.

It was to be combining the present with the past…


I continued running some events throughout the summer and fall of 2014, but always with my mind on Grandma’s Marathon and its training. On January 18, 2015, I began 3 weeks of “practice” training, with short runs, yoga and some walking, too.

On February 8, I began full-on training. I was so excited to begin, even given the wild, windy, blizzard-y New England winter we were experiencing. It became so impossible to train outside that my husband Barry and I set up our bike trainers, a brand-new treadmill, a portable heating unit and a television in our detached garage for both the short and L-O-N-G runs. I hadn’t been on a treadmill in years, but I felt so good with marathon training in motion.

I’m not going to say treadmill training was my favorite. It wasn’t. It felt different and, well… different. Each day that I had an inkling that I could run outside, I did. But it was running while jumping ice patches, maneuvering around snow banks and, generally, slushy and wet and cold and windy and sometimes seemingly going- nowhere-fast kind of runs.

I keep my “activity feed” of personal runs all stored and neat in my MapMyRun app, but I also jotted down each day’s run or workout (rather quickly and not-so-neatly) on a calender…



But it was my outdoors run on March 11th that changed everything…


It was the first relatively warm day. The snow had melted a bit. I decided to run 6 miles outside.

That wouldn’t happen. At mile .31, I felt intense pain in my right calf. I walked home and decided to give my treadmill a try. I hopped on and probably did the worst training I’ve ever done – ever. My calf ached. My legs felt like tree trunks. I couldn’t get into a groove. I couldn’t find a pace. I tried inclines. Just made it worse. I contemplated hopping off.


I ran those 6 miles, hobbled into my home and made that “SLOW” notation on my calendar (and even spelled treadmill wrong – that’s not me!). It only got worse from there.

I took a REST DAY next, ran 3.33 flat miles the next day after… and couldn’t wait ’til the next week, a vacation few days in sunny, glorious-for-running Florida.

That wouldn’t happen – the running, I mean.

By the time March 15th rolled around, I couldn’t walk without intense pain. I couldn’t stroll the beach without pain. I couldn’t push my grandson in his stroller without pain.

I rested, thinking all would be well with a few days off and knowing that Marathon Training Week 6 could be “made up” in miles. I’m not a panicky runner. I think coming late to running in my life has given me a good perspective on doing it right – healthy and safe; doing it with great JOY and FREEDOM and never taking for granted the ability to try things, to challenge myself in mind and body and spirit, to approach each day with the reality of ME on that particular day and that particular run.

I had a wonderful time in Florida with my husband, daughter, son-in-law and grandson. I swam and laughed and played and escaped for a bit from our New England winter of 2015…




The day we returned from Florida, I put in a call to my physician. He diagnosed a soleus sprain and prescribed physical therapy. There was a lot going on in that right calf of mine that required some work…


And that pretty much covered all of April…


… when I truly came to the realization that Grandma’s Marathon would not be happening for me.

But it’s not a dream lost. It’s a dream deferred.

I taught high school English and Reading for 30 years, and each of those years I taught one of my favorite poems ~ A Dream Deferred, by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Hundreds of teenagers interpreted this poem in their own ways, with their own experiences as a “dream” barometer. Interesting and electric discussions and debates filled my classroom, year after year after year.

But what I always took away from this poem is the single word deferred. Sometimes – maybe even oftentimes – things, wishes, hopes, DREAMS are withheld. Life will do this. It’s the way we face and deal with the deferred while we build back up again that makes a difference.

What I take away from this same poem in May of 2015 as I cancel my fights and hotel reservations for Grandma’s Marathon is a little phrase that never entered my mind back when I was teaching –

and then run?

Wow, has this come to mean so much more to me than 3 simple words in the middle of a poem about dreams – and then run?


I’ve spent the past couple of weeks doing lots of walking, enjoying walk/run interval evenings  with my husband…


And last week I busted out with a 2-mile run on my own…


Today, I would be on Week 14 of my marathon training, but I am joyful at the thought of running 2 miles.

2 miles means everything to me.

6.5 years ago, I couldn’t run around one short block.

6.5 years ago, my DREAM was to run a 5k.

So what happens to my combining my present with the past?

and then run


A dream deferred for this Grandma.

And maybe even a lesson in dreams for my 11 beautiful grandchildren.

I’ll be out there for now, building up to 3 miles and loving every moment of this dream renewed.







About Audrey

Audrey McClelland has been a digital influencer since 2005. She’s a mom of 5 and shares tips on her three favorite things: parenting, fashion and beauty. She’s also a Contemporary Romance Author.

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  1. 5.13.15

    I’m sorry your dream was deferred, but I have no doubts that you will do that Grandma’s marathon. You aren’t a quitter. You are one of the most dedicated people I know. You’ve got this. Just not next month. xoxo

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