Reflections on a Running Career

JOHANNA OLSON 3/18/1979- 1/3/2013

I've written about my peer, my friend, my inspiration, Johanna Olson in the past.  She's an incredible person who could shake off a bad workout or a bad diagnosis and keep smiling at the world.  Despite the brain tumor she battled since college, she never struck you as a victim.  Sure her tumor is usually found in people in their mid-50s; she'd tell you she's special.

Johanna's tumor returned over Christmas, despite the advanced medication she took since discontinuing chemotherapy in October.  It breaks my heart to loose her- I have so much yet to divine from her joyous outlook on life and her gutsy approach to running and racing.  

You can read more on her blog, which her sister took over during Johanna's move to hospice.  Read back a ways to get the full sense of her gratitude, her happy approach to life.  I'll never forget how she compared her pre-op nerves to pre-race nerves shortly before her last surgery.  Something so familiar and positive (racing) in light of the difficult and potentially terrifying situation (brain surgery).  I strive to be more positive- like Johanna- in situations big and small. 

May you be so lucky as to know and celebrate someone just like Johanna in your own life.

Here is a finish line photo from Hood To Coast 2006.  Johanna and I competed together multiple times for the Girls Just Wanna Have Fun team, even winning it from time to time.  One year Johanna chased down a girl from another team who had a two minute lead at the final handoff.  As she closed in on the competitor, both running well under 6-minute pace down the boardwalk crowded with summer tourists oblivious to the dual taking place, the runners rounded the final corner only to leave our team 0.02 seconds behind... good for second place overall.  Needless to say, Johanna was the hero!  How cool was it to close such a significant gap after 21 hours of no sleep, snack foods, and two other relay legs of at least 5 miles each?  We were all so proud of her!  (I wish I could post a picture from that race, but that would require that I did out the prints and scan in some film- ha, what a long time ago that was!)

Here is a photo from my daughter's first birthday party.  I am not sure if I saw Johanna again after this day in 2010.  It seems like I must have seen her, but I can't place it.  This was the last year we visited at HTC (I don't think she ran, at least not in my van, but she was definitely at the beach house).  Fall 2011-2013 were tough on Joha's health and I never wanted to impose on her resting time in Sun Valley, including just last Thanksgiving.  This photo seems like a million years ago, but I guess that just goes to show how time flies.  Make a commitment to see your dear friends as often as possible so that you don't find yourself wondering where the last two years of their life went and how you could have possibly missed it.  

Facebook is not enough for those you truly care about!