notebook: Running for Jamie and wounded vets, a finish-line proposal and talented super mom at Ann Arbor Marathon
Jeffrey Smith | AnnArbor.com
With roughly a mile to go Sunday in the first ever Ann Arbor Marathon half marathon event, emotions began to hit Laura Sullivan.
Nearing the finish of a 13.1-mile race with five of your closest friends can offer a sense of accomplishment and camaraderie that few other athletic achievements can mimic.
But it was the sixth friend, who couldn't make it, that began to affect Sullivan.
Because this race wasn't about them -- it was about Jamie, and finishing what she started.
"We were about a mile away and it started to hit me," said the 23-year-old Sullivan, a Kalamazoo native. "It was for Jamie, and this was great."
Jamie Zade, a University of Michigan student, had plans to participate in the half marathon portion of Sunday's event, but passed away unexpectedly last month.
A beauty pageant queen, Zade would have celebrated a birthday later this month.But rather than wait, Sullivan and four of Zade's fellow close friends -- Stasi Kanellopoulos, Nicole Kremer, Lindsay Catanzarite and Ellen Stewart -- decided to give Jamie's family an early birthday present.
Wearing bright yellow T-shirts with the phrase "Team Jamie" painted across the chest in pink lettering, Sullivan, Kanellopoulous, Kremer, Catanzarite and Stewart all crossed the finish line at Elbel Field together.
In memory of their dear friend, Jamie.
"Her family had asked us to run in her honor," Kanellopoulos said. "Jamie really wasn't a big runner, but this was something she really wanted to accomplish.
"She talked about it all semester and it was a big deal for her. It's something we did (together) to remember her by."
Will you marry me?
Shelly Bodner has run eight half-marathons, each one likely holding a special place in her heart.
But Sunday, for the first time ever, Bodner was greeted at the finish line with a question that will likely make the first-ever Ann Arbor Marathon the most memorable race of her life.
After crossing the finish line during the half marathon, Bodner, 37, was greeted by her boyfriend, Damien Cook, 47. In one arm, Cook held a bouquet of red roses and a bottle of champagne.
In the other, an engagement ring.
She said yes.
"I had no idea," she said with a wide grin.
The newly engaged pair, who now reside in Canton, met eight years ago as co-workers for the Masco Corporation. They've been together for roughly two years and, after Sunday, plan to stay together for a lot longer than that.
"Shelly's a big runner and she's kind of gotten me into running, too," Cook said. "Although probably not as much as she'd like.
"So I decided this might be a nice moment to do it, with the first running of the marathon, her running locally with her mom and dad, my mom and our best friends."
Roughly a dozen members of Team Red, White and Blue took part in Sunday's races, several of them running the duration of the event with full-sized American flags hoisted above their heads.
The mission of Team RWB is to support wounded veterans and help re-integrate them back into society.
"We pair up wounded veterans with civilians," Mike Lehnis, 33, of Canton said. "It's basically like a big brother, big sister concept."
The foundation was founded in Ann Arbor by Major Mike Erwin and was recently profiled in Men's Health magazine.
For more information on Team RWB, visit the organization's website -- TeamRWB.org.
Super mom pushes through
There's likely nothing that will ever stop Gwen Fredrickson from showing up and competing in full-scale marathons.
When the 40-year-old Frederickson was pregnant with her two sons, Luke and Harold, she trained for big races by running behind a stroller -- right up until her seventh month of pregnancy.
Luke is now 9, and Harold is 5. On Sunday, Frederickson got to run without a stroller -- and pushed all the way to second place in the women's 26.2-mile race.
"I'm always trying to lose that baby weight," Frederickson said with a smile. "This is pretty awesome. I never really have a lot of time to train with the kids, but I find a way.
"This is a lifestyle. I love to eat. And I run to eat, that's my motto."