FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Karin Keith and Amy Nessel share a bond that has evolved over the past 30 years. It started when they attended Fairfield schools together. Never, however, will their relationship feel more rewarding than on Nov. 4, when Keith runs in the ING New York City Marathon.
Keith will run in honor of Nessel, who has been fighting breast cancer for 2½ years. She has raised more than $6,500, with a goal of $15,000. Readers can contribute support Keith through her fundraising page.
“I have a shirt that I wear on my training runs that says 'I Run 4 Amy,'’’ Keith said. “When I put that shirt on, I feel like I’m a superhero. Especially on those long training runs and I want to stop, just having that shirt on helps keep me going.”
Keith, wife of Connecticut Challenge co-founder Jeff Keith, has run one other marathon. A former college swimmer, she gave up running for nearly 15 years because of knee issues. “Jeff convinced me it wasn’t my knees, it was my shoes,’’ Karin said. “I got a completely different pair of sneakers and now I’m able to run without my knees bothering me.”
When she found out that the Connecticut Challenge had an entry available for the marathon, she decided to run on Nessel’s behalf. Nessel, a guidance counselor at Roger Ludlowe Middle School, accepted her friend’s offer.
“She was blown away by my asking,’’ Keith said. “One of the things on her bucket list was to do a marathon. It’s not something that she can take on right now. I’m trying to take it on for her.”
Keith’s only other marathon came last year in Hartford, when she finished in four hours and two minutes. She is now coached by Jon Stellwagen, founder of the Greenwich Triathlon Club. “I’m not much of a runner,’’ Keith said. “The stubborn athlete in me didn’t care too much for that time in Hartford. My goal is 3:48. I want to run the whole way. In Hartford, I hit a wall at Mile 16. Those last 10 miles were long.”
As much as Keith would like to traverse the five boroughs in fewer than four hours, she has not lost sight of her primary goals of helping her friend. If she loses focus, all she needs to do is look at her shirt.
Nessel will be in New York to watch her friend run in a few weeks. It’s anyone’s guess who will be more overcome with emotion when Keith crosses the finish line in Central Park.
“It definitely is emotional,’’ Keith said. “I was out running with my shirt recently, was deep in thought when a car passed and stopped a short distance ahead. The person got out, and it was Amy. She had never seen me out running on the road. We both got teary-eyed. She’s an amazing with an unbelievable spirit. She’s determined to beat this. It’s a privilege to be able to support her.”