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A marathon runner writes about Little Ducky that Could

By Cate Coulacos Prato, Globe Correspondent, 3/14/2004

Marathon running has been used as a metaphor for everything from presidential campaigns to battles with cancer. Now Michele Bredice Craemer of Upton has written a marathon-themed children's book with the message: Life may not always be just ducky, but with a positive attitude and support, you can make it to the finish line.

Her self-published book, "Pellie Runs a Marathon" (Power Pack Productions, 2003), sprang from the journals Craemer kept while running five marathons, three in Boston, the others in New York and Washington, D.C. Her original plan was to write a coffee-table book on lessons learned while running. But when her two sons, now 3 and 4, arrived, her literary aspirations switched to the younger set.

Part "Make Way for Ducklings" and part "The Little Engine That Could," Craemer's book traces a plucky duck's journey from start to finish in rhyme for example:

"Miles 14 and 15,Pellie looks to the crowd;
as she puffs and puffs, they all cheer out loud."
Sometimes Pellie has to slow down to catch her breath and when the going gets really tough, she has to engage in positive self-talk.

"I wanted to show kids that if you have a goal or a challenge, it's OK to slow down or even take a little detour as long as you don't quit. You need to keep running and dig down deep inside and tell yourself you can do it," said Craemer.

In addition to her marathon training, Craemer drew on her experience as a parent and from her work presenting programs on stress management for corporations and parenting organizations. A little marketing savvy helped, too. Craemer, who wears Saucony shoes when she runs, called the Peabody company and asked if it would sponsor Pellie, who wears Saucony sneakers in the book. The company agreed, giving Craemer the extra funding she needed to produce a hardcover, full-color story.

Craemer, who is now at work on a story about a black Labrador retriever who enters triathlons, will read from "Pellie Runs a Marathon" at Borders in Shrewsbury this Thursday at 10 a.m.

TWO FOR THE ROAD

Many runners attempt a marathon for a sense of personal accomplishment, but this year Susan Lynch of Stow is doing it to help someone else meet that goal. Lynch, 48, has teamed up with Gabriel Bol Akau, 23, a Sudanese refugee who lives in the Worcester area, to train and raise money for the Sudanese Education Fund. The fund helps refugees pursue an education, so they can support themselves in the United States.

Lynch, a veteran runner, decided that since this year's Boston event would be her last marathon, she would make it special by running for a cause. Inspired by an article she saw on the Sudanese refugees, she contacted the Sudanese Education Fund and was quickly teamed with Akau. Akau had tried to run the Marathon two years ago, but wasn't able to finish.

Since January, the two have been training together with the help of 1976 Boston Marathon winner Jack Fultz and students from Nashoba Valley Regional High School, Lincoln-Sudbury High School, and Weston High School, who are also raising money for the fund. The students run with Lynch and Akau or ride alongside on bikes, providing water and encouragement.

The partnership has not only given Lynch something to run for this year but has also provided her, her family, and the high school students an opportunity to get to know Akau and his fellow refugees, she said.

"It's not just been an honor but a blessing to work with Gabriel. I can't even explain how great it's been," Lynch said. The refugees "are so gracious and appreciative, so happy people are helping them it's very humbling to us, who have so much."


For more information on the Sudanese Education Fund, visit www.sudaneseeducationfund.org or call 781-259-1880.

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