by Cori Hilsgen
Twenty-five participants rolled along the Wobegon Trail Sept. 7 to raise funds for Lindsey Johnson, 22, who was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, at the age of 21.
Johnson was told by her doctors in June they feel her cancer is now in remission. She was treated at the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital and had nine rounds of chemotherapy, numerous radiation treatments and a stem-cell transplant.
Johnson is the daughter of Mary and Gary Johnson of St. Joseph. She attended All Saints Academy and Cathedral High School and recently graduated from the College of St. Benedict with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and Spanish. She has one sister, Nicole.
Johnson recently became engaged to Reggie Fraley.
This is the fourth annual “Twenty-six in the Sticks” roller-blading marathon organized by Kari Jensen of Minneapolis, Christa Pfannenstein of St. Joseph and Mitch and Erica Evens of St. Cloud (husband and wife).
Organizers decided to donate this year’s funds to Johnson because she was a local resident whom they all knew and were close in age to.
Marathon participants began the 26-mile ride in Holdingford at 8 a.m. and finished in St. Joseph about noon.
Temperatures at the start were in the mid 70s but climbed to the high 80s at the finish. The hot and humid temperatures bothered many participants and many commented on it.
“Hydration was paramount this year,” Mitch Evens said.
Checkpoints included Albany, Avon and Collegeville. Participants were able to pick up water at five water stations and were encouraged with the sound of a ringing cowbell when they passed a checkpoint and at the finish line.
Several participants said they had to navigate road construction and other debris on the trail. Roller bladers said they saw insects, snakes and a deer along their ride.
Robin Vettleson, 34, of Cold Spring, finished first with a time of 2.00. Her friend, Angela Viere, 34, finished second with a time of 2.06. Viere told Vettleson about the event and had finished in second place last year also.
Vettleson said she has participated in 5k runs and one 10k run before and said she did a little training before the event.
“I thought it would be fun to do something different,” Vettleson said.
She said she fell on the trail at the beginning and had some scrapes on her hands. She borrowed her roller blades for the event and thought they might have been just a little bit too small.
Viere said she and Vettleson saw a buck along the trail.
“I love this event,” Viere said. “It’s such a great cause.”
Viere also commented it was “ridiculously hot” this year.
Grade-school friends Stephanie Simon, Christa Pfannenstein and Heather Van Beck visited on the trail. All three have participated in past marathons and felt the heat was a major factor this year.
“It was a lot of fun again this year,” Pfannenstein said. “Although the weather was a bit warm, it was a beautiful day on the trail. It’s always a great feeling when coming across that finish line and especially exciting to see Lindsey standing among the crowd.”
“I enjoyed spending time on the trail with friends, but the heat was terrible this year,” Simon said.
“It was for a good cause and was a lot of fun, but I very much appreciated shade trees and the water stations this year,” Van Beck said.
This was the first year Niki Lanctot, 40, and Terrie Braegelmann, 38, participated in the marathon.
“It was a great accomplishment,” Lanctot said.
“It was great and a lot of fun,” Braegelmann said.
Travis Pogatschnik and Jessica Patrick participated in the marathon because of a friendly bar bet. A group of friends had been sitting around at a bar when a conversation about the marathon was discussed. Pogatschnik commented he thought he could do the marathon.
A friend said he didn’t think he could. The friend paid for Pogatschnik’s and Patrick’s entrance fees. Pogatschnik’s wife, family members and friends watched him leave the Holdingford starting line. They thought they would be picking him up at the Avon checkpoint but were surprised to see him roller-blade effortlessly through Avon. They met him at the finish line in St. Joseph.
Johnson was very grateful to everyone who skated for her cause. She did not know she was the beneficiary of the cause until the day before the event. When Johnson found out she was the recipient, she wanted to be at the finish line. She greeted several participants as they rolled across the finish line.
“I really appreciate the community support,” Johnson said. “It’s people like this that really got me through the hardest times.”
Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor's degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people's stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.