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From Stroke to Marathons

Posted by Lynn Bronikowski Aug 10 2017

By year’s end stroke survivor Spencer Olsen will have run a marathon in all 50 states.

But first he’s stopping in Philadelphia on Sept. 17 to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll half-marathon on behalf of the National Stroke Association. He’ll start at the back of the pack of runners as a Go-Giver and for every runner he passes on the course, Transamerica will make a donation to the National Stroke Association.

“I’m looking forward to it and am actually doing different training just so I can be stronger,” said Olsen, 58, of Salt Lake City, Utah. “I’m excited because I want to do the best I can and raise as much money as I can.”

Olsen experienced two strokes within days of each other in January 2014. The owner of a construction company, Olsen was drilling into the foundation of a house he was building when he lost his balance and was rushed to a nearby hospital.

“My balance was hampered for six months and that was the hardest part when I started training as a runner,” said Olsen.

His brother, Darren Olsen, who was training for the Chicago Marathon that was taking place in October 2014, encouraged Olsen to join him.

“I told my brother if my doctor will give me the go-ahead to train I’ll run it with you,” said Olsen. “The doctor said yes; told me to just take it slow and gave me some parameters to stay within.”

And, just 10 months after surviving two strokes, Olsen ran the Chicago Marathon.

“The thing I enjoyed most was the preparation. Each day I was able to do something a little bit more,” said Olsen. “I saw myself getting stronger and stronger and stronger and realizing that I can do this. I had something that was pretty scary happen to me but I can do this. That was the biggest thing.”

That marathon would put him on a path to do 31 marathons in 36 weeks throughout the U.S. In November 2015 he ran the New York City Marathon as part of the National Stroke Association’s Stroke Challenge Team which raised funds and awareness for stroke.

“That was a great experience,” said Olsen who has gone beyond the top tier of the Marathon Maniacs Club which requires runners to complete 30 marathons in 30 different states within 365 days. “Something happened with that stroke that I had to change a few things in my life—my diet and relieve a little stress in my life. Then I picked up that marathon with my brother and it just kind of accelerated. It’s my new addiction.”

Olsen believes he’s stronger now than before he had his stroke.

“I’ve been back to see my doctor a couple of times and he thinks it’s the greatest thing in the world,” said Olsen. “Every marathon is hard. Your body gets used to them and the last six miles are always hard and you have to dig deep—just like in life you have to dig deep. You may start to struggle and not have as good an attitude but you have to dig deep and I enjoy that.”

Now he’s turning his sights on doing running events for charity.

“I want to move forward and make more of a mark for others instead of myself because I feel really fortunate that I came through my strokes,” he said. “I need to keep doing things that give me life and will enrich others, too.”

To contribute to Spencer Olsen’s half-marathon run visit his fundraising page.
 

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