RIDGEFIELD, Conn. – When Ridgefield native Susan Olsen runs the Marine Corps Marathon for the fourth time with her brother-in-law, Jeff Warner of Ridgefield, the race promises to be the most emotional, and memorable, of any her previous 26.2-mile journeys.
Olsen and Warner will be running to raise money for the family of Daniel Barden, one of 26 people killed in the mass shooting on Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Olsen knoww the family through her sister, a neighbor of the Bardens. Daniel, a first-grader, was the best friend of Olsen’s nephew, Kyle, a second-grader.
“It has just been horrific,’’ Olsen said. “I was desperate to help that family in any way I could. When I saw the number of victims was 26, I said I’ll run a marathon. I just wanted to do anything I could to help that family.”
Olsen and Warner have set up a fundraising page online.
When Olsen considered running for charity, she consulted her sister. When she heard of the Barden’s hardship, she chose to run for a specific family.
“The family has been out of work, they have two young children, and my family has tried everything we can do to help them,’’ she said. “We’ve all done something to chip in. I thought this would be a good way to get another marathon in and help the family.”
Olsen said she remembers hearing about the shootings and immediately thought of her nephew. “It was so horrible on that day,’’ she said. “I remember waiting to see if my nephew was alive.”
Olsen could hot have selected a better venue to honor Barden. The Marine Corps Marathon is one of the most emotional of the major marathons, because of its location and sponsor. The drama will be two-fold for Olsen and Warner in their race.
“It is overwhelming, because it’s physically and mentally exhausting,’’ Olsen said. “It makes me feel like that whole race will be cathartic. I know it’s going to be an emotional day. I keep thinking what it’s going to be like when I go to their house and present them with this money.”
Olsen has run five previous marathons, and they have all taken a physical and emotional toll. Nothing, however, has been as emotionally uplifting as her current journey to support the Barden family.
“Every day has been worth it,’’ Olsen said. “It sounds corny, but when I’m out there running 18 miles and I start to struggle, I pull a picture of the kids’ faces. It’s like we have to do this.”