Chancellor, 2 priests run in solidarity at Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth

| June 24, 2015 | 1 Comment
Susan Mulheron (white t-shirt) prepares to cross the finish line.

Susan Mulheron (white t-shirt) prepares to cross the finish line. Photo courtesy Susan Mulheron

It’s not often that a runner is suffering before the race even begins.

But, such was the case for Susan Mulheron before the start of the annual Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth June 20.

The race was scheduled to start at 7:45 a.m., and Mulheron, the chancellor for canonical affairs for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, arrived about an hour early. She was joined by two priests who also ran the race, Father Erik Lundgren of Sts. Anne and Joachim in Shakopee and Father Nate LaLiberte of St. Michael in St. Michael who becomes pastor of St. Maximilian Kolbe in Delano July 1.

Father Erik Lundgren gives a fist pump to race onlookers.

Father Erik Lundgren gives a fist pump to race onlookers. Photo courtesy Father Erik Lundgren

“We stood in the pouring rain at 7 o’clock in the morning waiting for it to start,” Mulheron said.” You had to be in the start corral by 7:15, and the rain was just pouring. My shoes were completely soaked. There was water running down my back.; it was drenched. And, it didn’t let up for another two hours. I was shivering and wet and I was just worried about having blisters on my feet because my shoes were totally soaked. My clothes were heavy because I was soaking wet. I kept thinking, ‘I want to start running so I can warm up.’”

But, Mulheron and the two priests steeled themselves against the elements and successfully completed the 26.2-mile race from Two Harbors to Duluth on Highway 61. Father LaLiberte had the best time, finishing in 3 hours, 38 minutes. Lundgren was next at 4:16, and Mulheron had a time of 4:58.

“My time last year was better,” Mulheron said. “And, I was on track to beat that time, but I had to slow down. That’s OK. The most important thing is to start the race and finish the race.

Father Erik Lundgren celebrates the completion of Grandma's Marathon with a niece and two nephews.

Father Erik Lundgren celebrates the completion of Grandma’s Marathon with a niece and two nephews. Photo courtesy Father Erik Lundgren

“I was a little delirious at the finish line. It had rained almost the whole race. When we started the race, we were completely soaked. It rained for the first 14 miles. So, when I got to the finish line, I was just trying to see straight.”

The three runners did not see each other at the starting line, but Father Lundgren passed Mulheron along the way. They exchanged a high five and Father Lundgren called them “the healthiest people in our archdiocese.”

But, the race was about a lot more than physical fitness. It was a chance to divert their attention from the big changes that have been happening in the archdiocese, including the resignations of both Archbishop John Nienstedt and Bishop Lee Piché less than a week before the race.

“Part of the reason why I decided to train for a marathon was to keep my mind off of things,” Father Lundgren said. “Given the last couple weeks in our local church, I thought, ‘You know what would help me blow off some steam is running 26.2 miles.’ It was a healthy thing to divert the mind and body from less positive things.”

That’s precisely why Mulheron, who ran Grandma’s last year, was determined to push through the weather and complete this year’s race. Running has become an important part of her life, something that helps her deal with being at the center of all the struggles the archdiocese is going through.

“I signed up [for Grandma’s Marathon] because I realized that running had become a very spiritual thing for me,” she said. “It had become essential, not just for my physical wellness but for my emotional, my mental and my spiritual wellness.

“It’s a very spiritual experience. It’s often very prayerful, and it gives me time to think. I clear my brain and I can bring my stress to that run and it alleviates it. It’s really a sanctuary for me.”

Father Nate LaLiberte shows off his race medal after successfully running 26.2 miles.

Father Nate LaLiberte shows off his race medal after successfully running 26.2 miles. Photo courtesy Father Nate LaLiberte

Mulheron already has signed up to run the Twin Cities Marathon in October, and hopes to pull others along with her. She would like to form an archdiocesan team, with people like Fathers Lundgren and LaLiberte as her prized recruits.

Father Lundgren is open to the idea, but he has even bigger plans. They involve what some consider the ultimate physical challenge — and a large chunk of money.

“The idea of doing an Ironman [triathlon] has long appealed to me,” he said, of the annual event that involves running, swimming and biking. “That’s my crazy dream.”

What’s more, he would like to raise $33 million for archdiocesan Catholic schools in the process. He turns 33 in October and wants to do the Ironman while he is 33. He once raised $50,000 for Divine Mercy Catholic School in Faribault when he ran the Twin Cities Marathon in 2012. So, he’s ready for an even bigger fundraiser.

“It’s astronomical and it’s ludicrous, but the idea’s been on my heart for about a year now,” he said. “I’m calling it ‘Iron Priest.’”

Category: Featured, Local News

  • sharon

    Whoot Whoot – You go Fr. Erik. Iron Priest here you come!