Every finish line provides a sense of accomplishment. But when Vicki Classen crosses the finish line on Saturday at the Lakefair Marathon, it will be the end of an emotional, long-distance journey.
The race in Olympia, Washington, will be the 100th time the Portland woman has completed a 26.2-mile course. A tremendous individual feat, to be sure.
But Classen, 62, never went it alone.
For most of them, she was accompanied by husband, Gary. When he died in 2012 — having completed 72 full marathons — Vicki made his goal of running 100 marathons her own.
"I am going to be very happy and very thankful that I was able to complete this for Gary," she says.
Daughter Emillie Niblack joined Vicki in that quest. She joined her parents in a marathon for the first time in 2003 and has completed 54 marathons — the last 15 alongside her mother.
It took decades to get here, but Vicki Classen has pushed the pace to reach 100. The Lakefair Marathon will be the 10th in 2017 for Classen and Niblack. The July 4 Foot Traffic Flat Marathon on Sauvie Island was No. 99 — Vicki finished in 4 hours, 44 minutes to win her age division — giving mother and daughter just 10-plus days to recuperatefor Olympia.
The final kick started last year, when Vicki completed 11 marathons. She and Emillie were doing 20-mile runs twice a month and figured they could extend a few of those.
Emillie says she was an overweight child and not particularly active. But her parents' running habit eventually rubbed off on her. She started out walking for exercise and completed her first marathon at the 2003 Portland Marathon. In May 2016, she set a personal record of 3:56 at the Eugene Marathon.
Mother and daughter work for Adventist Health in Portland and say its employee wellness program has helped them reach this goal.
Most of family's marathons have been in the Pacific Northwest. Vicki and Emillie also ran the Disney World Marathon in Florida in January and the Los Angeles Marathon in March.
Vicki's favorite marathon was the 2010 Maui Oceanfront Marathon in Hawaii — which was Gary's 72nd and final marathon. Soon after that race, his lymphoma was diagnosed.
Vicki's first was the 1987 Portland Marathon. Her fastest was one of the first of the 23 times she completed the Portland Marathon. Vicki recalls once finishing within seconds of breaking the four-hour barrier, but isn't certain of the exact year or her official best time.
After running 2,620 miles of marathons (a bit farther than the driving distance from Portland to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) and countless more miles training, Vicki is ready to slow down.
The Lakefair Marathon will be a real finish line. Vicki and Emillie will keep running and continue enjoying the fitness and friendships that running has given them. But Vicki looks forward to fewer training miles, and Emillie wants to see how fast she can be, so mother and daughter plan to focus on half-marathons from now on — beginning next month with the Crawfish Crawl in Tualatin.