Posts Tagged With: Phoenix Half-Marathon

My Cousin Went Completely Bonkers This Weekend

Last year my cousin ran the Phoenix half-marathon. Which, according to a bumper sticker I bought her, made her only half crazy. You can read my version and/or her version. They’re both entertaining, even if I do say so myself.

This year, she ran the full marathon. That’s 26.2 miles if you were wondering. And, she did it in under five hours!

Pretty impressive! Or full-on crazy.

Training, Training, and Training

Just another early morning for her. We left for the race at 3:45 a.m.

Just another early morning for her. We left for the race at 3:45 a.m.

She logged a boatload of miles while training for this run. There were twenty-mile training runs, eighteen mile training runs, six-mile training runs, all sorts of running happened frequently outdoors and indoors. Imagine running for three hours on a treadmill. Can you say mind-numbing?

Keep in mind that my cousin holds down a full-time job and does volunteer work as well. She woke long before most of us even begin to drop into dream number three for the night. For months she did this! Her dedication and perseverance astound me.

Cheering from the sidelines took on a different feel this year. For logistical reasons I didn’t even show up at the side of the road until mile twelve. Last year at that point she’d be nearly finished with the race. This year it wasn’t quite the half-way mark. I arrived a bit early to stake some semi-permanent one-word signs in the ground. “Breathe” “Smile” and “Stroganoff.”


Yes. A story she told me about a friend of hers she often and unintentionally ended up eating stroganoff with. She suggested that before the race my cousin should write “Stroganoff” in Sharpie marker on her arm to remind her of her friend who’d be cheering her on in spirit. So I figured, if I included the word “Stroganoff” in a sign, she’d know the little series of three signs came from me. She said it worked.

I had a fresh water bottle waiting for her and a backpack filled with possible items she might need. The forecast had called for one hundred percent rain, which changes a race you thought would be warm and sunny, into a different animal altogether. Luckily, it only sprinkled a bit a couple of times. The deluge came later, raining out the Cubs spring training game, filling up water retention ponds and raining on various “parades.” But that’s another story.

One of several signs I'd whipped up for the occasion.

One of several signs I’d whipped up for the occasion.  Next time, I’d post some in the ground ahead of time.

I stood with my sign, and a whirligig. Yes, a whirligig. So my cousin would notice me among the crowd. My first sign said “YES YOU CAN.” Many runners say “thank you” when they read an encouraging sign. A couple of runners said, “Yes! I can!” And one said, “Boy, did I need that reminder.”

I made eye contact with some, others were focused, moving forward without notice of anything going on around them. Every face told a story. Some spoke louder than others.

Mile Eighteen

Once my cousin found me and got her fresh water bottle, I got back in my car and headed to our next agreed upon meeting spot, at mile eighteen. Navigating streets blocked off by a race this big takes some planning and luck and some good parking spots. I did better this year than last year.

Many of the same runners ran past that I’d seen at mile twelve. Makes sense if you think about it. The stories on their faces had changed a bit with eight more miles to go. More of them were walking, running slower or at least looked more worn.

The ones that really intrigued me still had smiles on their faces. I’d like to get their stories!

Familiar Faces

I was glad to see familiar faces and relieved to see them progressing. I was caring about these total strangers again, just like last year. Wish I understood that better.

My cousin ran by without needing any water, so she got my cheering and hopes.

Not much past that point she said it got really hard. Walking didn’t help, so she just kept running. I’m hoping she’ll write about her experience and let me post it here. I think her telling this story makes the most sense.

That's here in the pink jersey. Notice the clouds? Not normal weather around here.

That’s here in the pink jersey. Notice the clouds? Not normal weather around here.

I  hustled to get to my next stop near the finish line. I missed her crossing that line last year. Bad planning, heavy traffic, lots of closures.

26.2 Miles

This year I watched eagerly, not just for my cousin, but for the woman in the burka head covering, and the older woman who ran with such conviction and determination it nearly hurt to watch her move. And the woman who ran with a smile. There was a dad whose three young kids joined him for the last hundred yards. Some nearly burst into tears as they rounded the corner and saw the finish line so close.

I wanted to cry and cheer for all of them. What an accomplishment!

That last stretch looked like it hurt. My cousin wasn’t interested in seeing me there. Her focus zoomed in entirely on that finish line and getting her body across it. She managed to give the official camera a thumbs up and a smile as she crossed.

Simply being on the sidelines is an honor. Witnessing such a feat feels like something almost intimate and privileged.

Completing a marathon is an act of devotion and dedication, one involving the heart in more ways than we know. That’s something my cousin has a ton of.

Congratulations, Kettie!

Categories: Exercise, phoenix | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Guest Blog: A Half Crazy View of The Phoenix Half Marathon

My “half crazy” cousin, who ran the half marathon, has graciously agreed to be my first ever guest blogger! I’m excited about this for two reasons. First, she’s one very cool, fun lady that I’m always proud to introduce, show off and talk about. Second, she provides a real participant’s point of view of the Phoenix Half Marathon. 

(click here to get my spectator’s viewpoint as well as a nice intro to her in my companion post.)

Now, I turn you over to my cousin, Kettie Olsen. Enjoy!

My First Half Marathon

“You only get one first time. I’d been training for this a long time, starting with a five-minute run back in April of 2012. It was my first run since losing the boot I’d been wearing to heal from a stress fracture. It was hard and not fun. But as I built my endurance and strength back up, I had come to really enjoy the running and the discipline of daily training. I was almost sorry to see the race actually come because then it would never be my first one again.

I arrived in Phoenix late Friday night, more tired than excited. I was in bed at 11:30 and up at 3:30 to get ready to catch the bus to the starting line. I already had my race shirt. The thought of sleeping in, skipping the race, and just spending the day playing with my cousin had its appeal.

She's ready to go. Sunrise is still over an hour away.

She’s ready to go. Sunrise is still over an hour away.

It was cold and dark at the start line as I ate my pbj, drank some water, listened to the chatter of those around me, and waited for the time to pass. I wasn’t nervous and I wasn’t as excited as I wanted to be. It just kind of felt like another training run. With a lot of extra people.

That feeling persisted for the first few miles. Just another run, keeping it relaxed and easy, still got a long ways to go. It wasn’t until about mile six that I really started having fun. Everything had been fine up to that point – I’d been watching the other runners, creating mini lives for them in my head, waving at the spectators, thanking the volunteers, but at mile six I really started to enjoy myself and ran with a smile on my face.

What made the difference? Could have been the endorphins finally kicking in, the thought of being almost halfway done, or the sugar high from the chocolate Clif shot I ingested but I think what did it was the tunes. I don’t normally run with a soundtrack but I’d created a playlist of favorites for this race knowing there might come a point when I’d need some distraction. As Amy Grant started singing about Simple Things, I felt the grin start to spread across my face and as Basia sang about hugging olive trees in the south of France I thought, “Oh, I love this song!” Although it would appear that I had cut myself off from what was going on by inserting my ear buds, it actually intensified my desire to interact with the world around me. Because I was happier, I wanted to see others happier too. If I saw a little kid on the sidewalk close enough to receive a high five, I made sure I was there to give it. If someone cheered for me, I cheered for them and thanked them. If I passed someone who looked like they could use a kind word, I gave them one. I felt good and I was having fun.

Mile nine – downtown Mesa. The Olympic Fanfare and Theme plays in my earbuds. Man, I love this song too! Someone did a good job of putting together this playlist! Ten year old boy wearing white knee highs with a pastel heart pattern. Got to be a story behind that. “Awesome socks!” as I pass. That got a grin.

Mile eleven – my cousin is there again with my sign. She’s great! Mile eleven… Wait. That means I only have two miles left? If I kick it in I can be done in less than 20 minutes. Let’s go! I’m not a speed demon by any means but apparently I had more left in the tank than most of those around me and I started passing people more rapidly. I know I’m running close to an 11 minute mile pace for the race and that was my unofficial goal time. If I can nail this last bit, I can pull it off. Keep the pace, dodge the 10K walkers, stay out of the way of the two marathon runners who have just caught up with us. Really? So they’re running twice as fast as me? Wow. I think in the last 200 yards I passed 15 people as I sprinted for the finish line.

And just like that, it was done! Volunteers were at the line handing out medals. I almost asked for a kiss with mine. Haha. Took a cool wash cloth from another volunteer and wiped the sweat from my eyes, face, ears, and neck. Got a picture taken with my medal, found some water, some food, and my cousin/friend/personal cheering section/chauffeur and headed off to enjoy the rest of the day.

It was a fun run, a fun day, a great time. Every race won’t be like that. Some will be hard, some will hurt, some will have lousy weather. Stuff happens. Sometimes you just don’t feel good or run well for whatever reason. But my one and only first ever half marathon was a great time!”

The bumper sticker I bought for my cousin which inspired the title for this post.

The bumper sticker which inspired the title for this post. Check out their website at

Categories: phoenix, Sports | Tags: , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

My Cousin is only Half Crazy

My cousin ran in the Phoenix Half-Marathon today. She had planned to do so last year, but a broken something in her ankle during a training run sidelined last year’s plans. 2 hours 27 minutes was all it took her to run 13.1 miles. Is that amazing or what? It is to me. She’s my hero and I’m dang proud of her today.

Phoenix Marathon 2013 t-shirt

Phoenix Marathon 2013 t-shirt

Since she’s from out-of-state, and I’m the local, I got to do the driving. I also got to do the cheering. I made a double-sided sign to encourage her along the road a few times.

One side of the sign said, “YOU CAN DO IT!” in big block letters, each colored a different bright shade of marker.

The other side of the sign said, “GO KETTIE GO!” and “YAY” along with her race number. I highlighted her name in shiny sparkles, each letter a different shade of bling. This is funny because she is the least blingy person I know.

What she did today was all BLING in my eyes.

I came prepared to cheer. I’d read up on what you should and shouldn’t say to runners to encourage them. I’d looked up funny sayings for signs. I found some suggestions for good places to set up your cheering station. I had my driving route planned to avoid traffic.  I also had brought a camp chair, a book, a drink, some snacks and a warm blanket.

My plan was to cheer for her at mile marker 4ish.  Mile marker 8ish, and for sure at the finish line.

There were police officers at the intersections near where I’d decided to set up for my first sighting of my cousin. (Boy, do they have a tough job directing traffic during an event this big.) I set up my mini temporary campsite, leaned my sign against the chair and waited for the first wave of runners.

It wasn’t long before they showed up. A small, incredibly fast foursome, a long wait, a few more, a wait, a few more and then wave after wave of people. 2500 half marathoners! I clapped, I yelled, I got off my chair and clapped some more.

Then I picked up my sign and waved and cheered. As I did so I caught the eye of a few runners as they read the words, “YOU CAN DO IT!” Some smiled, some said thanks, some did a thumbs up or cheered back.

A little while later I saw my cousin in her neon turquoise shirt and hot pink running shorts and lime green shoes. I flipped my sign over so the words, “GO KETTIE GO” were showing. I jumped and waved and screamed and high-fived her. Then I watched her run down the road and out of sight.

My cousin is on the right, in the pink shorts and turquoise shirt.

My cousin is on the right, in the pink shorts and turquoise shirt.

Time to pack up and head out to the next stop four miles away.

But then I saw the next wave of runners coming. I held up my sign for a minute more. Some had faces that said, “What did I get myself in to?” Some faces looked like pain personified. Some kept their heads down and plowed ahead. Some smiled back and said thank you.

I stood there and cheered another 20 minutes for total strangers. Every face had a story in it. Every runner was suddenly someone I wondered about, would like to talk to, hoped the best for.

I stood there so long that I missed my chance of getting to the 8 mile area I wanted to cheer at. I showed up at the 11 mile spot. I held up my sign again, saw the same red faces, the same tutus and neon socks and sweat soaked shirts.  Were they ever tired. The stories on their faces were more poignant by this time. The pain more prevalent. The wonder I had about each of them more intense.

I wanted to yell, “only 2 more miles” but there is nothing “ONLY” about 2 more miles at that point.

I saw my cousin. Switched my sign to her name. Cheered her on and saw joy and elation and energy on her face.  I couldn’t stay longer for any other runners. I hurried back to my car so I could be at the finish line.

I missed that part. Too much traffic, too big of a crowd. But that’s okay. It was her race and her personal victory. I was just a face in the crowd watching and learning and wanting to know all the stories.

The finish line is just the end of a very long chapter in a story made of many more chapters.

Last night, when I found this quote, I didn’t understand it. Now I do.

“If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.”  Kathrine Switzer, 26.2: Marathon Stories

Putting one foot in front of the other time and again, in spite of it all, is a miracle and a wonder to me.

To all those sore-footed, blackened toenailed, achy muscled persevering half marathoners: Congratulations and Thank You.

The bumper sticker I bought for my cousin which inspired the title for this post.

The bumper sticker I bought for my cousin which inspired the title for this post. Please check out their website

Categories: Exercise, phoenix, The World | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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