Sole Sister Stories from the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon in Portland - Part Two of Two

by Jodi with some help from Kathleen and Kristen

Yesterday we heard from Sky and Courtney.  Today Kathleen and Kristen share their stories with us.  I know you will be blessed.

Kathleen Joffer
Kathleen and I went on a missions trip to Haiti together.  It's amazing how quickly you bond when eight women share one flush toilet and a shower (when the water is working) for an entire week.  Kathleen had the bed across from mine and we giggled, served, worshipped, cried, prayed, and sweat profusely together for seven days.  Kathleen has a HUGE heart and serves quietly and consistently without anyone knowing she's working.  I started calling her my Getter Doner because that's what she does.  She gets things done.  Our friendship has grown sweeter over the past two years since we've been back from Haiti and I think the world of her.  Here's her story.
Kathleen and John on race morning
How six small words can change the way you run a race is beyond me but that is exactly what happened to me Sunday. Here's my 2013 Portland Rock and Roll half marathon story in a nutshell:    I barely beat my time from last year.  The difference was a mere 47 seconds, but I did it!

I knew going into this race that I would finish.  And I knew I was not going to walk.  What I didn’t know was how this race would change the way I ran them in the future.  I have been running a lot slower this past year. Exactly 1.5 minute per mile slower.  My ultimate goal was to beat last years’ time. I KNEW that was a dream and was unhappily planning for a finish time about 8-10 minutes behind last years’ time.

As I was waiting at the starting line, like any Instagrammer would do, I posted a picture of the starting line and the rack of medals waiting for their owners.  The starting bell sounded, I wished my husband good luck and we were off.  I paced behind him for the first mile and then he started to pull away. I fell into my comfortable stride, but my heart wanted something different.  I looked at my phone to check my pace and there was a comment from my friend Jodi Stilp cheering me on.  "Run hard Kathleen.  You've got this!"
screen shot of what Kathleen saw on her phone
Jodi's words kept running through my head and I thought about how Jodi would run this race.  At mile two I decided I would run hard.  My heart said, "NO WAY are you settling.  You've got this.  At least give it your ALL and see what you can pull off."   

I started to run hard... hard and as fast as I could.  I didn’t want to save anything.  I wanted to leave each mile knowing I gave that mile my all. At mile three a saw a runner with a bib that said in “In Memory of…” Thoughts of my little sister who recently passed away unexpectedly came flooding into my mind.  I started to miss her so I pushed harder. I was running strong and hard and have never felt this great in a race before.   

Then came mile 10.  At mile 10 I felt myself slipping. I looked at my watch and knew I needed a final push or I wasn't going to make my goal. I was scrambling to figure out how I was going to pull this off! I prayed, "Lord give me something, p-l-e-a-s-e!!!!!!

He is so gracious and immediately provided.  Out of nowhere my Saturday run coaches, Gary and Karen, appeared.  They are pacers with Team Oregon, a group that helps runners successfully complete half and full marathons.  For the past three seasons, this group has helped me with my training.  Gary and Karen were  running strong and fast.  I got their attention and decided to run with them. Quickly they began to pull away from me, but I didn't give up.  I knew if I fell behind them I wouldn't finish fast enough so I kept pushing harder and faster! 
Kathleen with her two coaches and a friend at the finish line
Running into them was the blessing I needed to carry me forward to the finish line.  We ran together for the rest of the race and crossed the finish line together.  It was thrilling!  I thought my heart would explode with joy and pride after I crossed the finish line.  I put everything on the table and left the course with no regrets. When I looked at my watch I was overwhelmed with more excitement. I beat my time from last year!!  Barely... but I did it!!  I ran hard and I gave it my ALL! 
2013 Finish Stats

After this race I have a new outlook on races.  Going into them I will have the same three goals: (1) To finish (2) To not walk and (3) some sort of time goal.  Now I've added a fourth goal to my list: (4) To give it my all and “Run hard Kathleen! 
Run hard Kathleen!
I’m so grateful for my dear friend Jodi and her six inspiring words that helped me reach my goal... "Run hard Kathleen! You've got this!" 

2013 Finish time: 2:11:56, Pace: 10:04 
2012 Finish time 2:12:43, Pace: 10:08
My coaches PRed: by 6 minutes
My husband PRed: by 24 minutes. (from 2:20 to 1:56!!!)

Kristen Davidson

I've known Kristen for four years already.  We live in the same neighborhood and shortly after we moved in, Kristen brought a welcoming committee and homemade cookies.  Her thoughtfulness made a lasting impression on me and I knew I wanted to be her friend.  Our friendship has grown over the years through impromptu chats on the street, play date drop off and pickups, and field trip chaperoning.  

Kristen is married and has four awesome children ranging in age from 11 to 4 years old.  She has a beautiful smile, a kind heart, and a quiet but fierce determination.  Her story is a beautiful one and she agreed to let me share it with you.  
Kristen with her husband Travis and their four kids
In January 2012 Kristen decided to change her life, but her journey started in 2009 when she committed to lose weight and start to exercise.  Over the course of two years she slowly lost 35 pounds by joining Weight Watchers, getting a membership to the YMCA, counting calories using the My Fitness Pal app on her phone, and using a Body Bugg to track food and exercise.

In October 2011, our neighbor and friend Krista lost her battle against cancer.  Her death left us wanting to do something to honor her memory.  In early January 2012, our friend Polly came up with the idea of gathering a group of women to run the Girlfriends half marathon to celebrate Krista's life.  Kristen had never run before but she agreed to train for the half marathon.  That decision changed her life.

Kristen and Polly chose to start training immediately and followed a Couch to 5k/10k training program. Kristen hoped that learning to run would kickstart the next phase in her weight loss and exercise goals.   In the beginning, Kristen didn't have the stamina to run 3 miles.  She built up her endurance by tackling the required distances using a walk/run ratio.  Within a month or two, Kristen was solely running.  She was hooked.  

Three months later Kristen ran her first race - a 5k.  The following month she doubled the distance with the 10k.  Both of these races were big milestones because she tackled distances that just weeks before felt insurmountable.  The shorter races gave Kristen small goals to work toward on the path to the BIG goal of 13.1 miles.  With each race, Kristen gained more confidence and motivation to keep running.

Kristen (#436) at her first ever race - a 5k
Polly signed up for inaugural running of the Portland Rock 'n' Roll half marathon.  She badgered Kristen on their training runs to join her on race day, arguing convincingly that they were already on track with their training to cover the distance.  On May 20, 2012, Kristen lined up in Corral 23 to run her first half marathon!  She finished in 2:20:20 (a 10:43 pace), beating her goal of 2:30 by almost ten minutes!  Even better, she ran the entire distance without walking.  In five months Kristen went from never running at all to running 13.1 miles.  Can you say inspiring?
Kristen after her first half marathon
Kristen didn't stop exercising after the race.  She continued to run, cross train, and eat healthy.  She ran several 5k's and 10k's to keep herself motivated.  Race after race, Kristen improved her time.  Day after day, the weight continued to drop off her.  She was a running machine.

On October 14th,  2012, nineteen of Krista's friends gathered together to run the Girlfriends half marathon in her honor.  Kristen really wanted to break the two hour mark in this race. I knew she could do it, but it wasn't her day.  She had one of those running days where your mind shows up but your body doesn't.  Everything about that race felt slow and hard for Kristen.  I ran with her for the last mile and even though she was exhausted, she still flashed me that beautiful smile.  We ran into the finish together in a time of 2:04:47 (9:32 pace).  Kristen shaved sixteen minutes off her previous race time, but she still left feeling disappointed and depleted.  
Kristen and I after our emotional Girlfriends half marathon
It took Kristen a long time to recover from that race.  She began to doubt whether she could break the two hour mark or if she even wanted to try.  When she was training for this year's Rock 'n' Roll half marathon, she wasn't sure if she should race the event or run slow and enjoy it.  In the end, she decided to race it.  Her goal?  1:59:59.
look at all those checked off boxes on that training schedule.
On May 19th, Kristen lined up to run her third half marathon in a year.  She moved out of Corral 23 and up to Corral 9.  Her race strategy was to find the Red Lizard pacer and fall in either directly behind the pace group or a little ahead of the pace group.  Either strategy would work to help her accomplish her goal.  Kristen searched the corral but couldn't find the Red Lizard.  She was forced to abandon her race strategy and pace herself.

Kristen ran the first five miles with two of her friends.  When they checked their splits, they realized they were running fast - possibly too fast - pacing out at miles in the 8:35 to 8:40 range.  Kristen felt great so she kept running fast, pulling ahead of her friends at a water station.

At mile six the course hit some hills.  Kristen started climbing and caught up to the first of the two Red Lizard 2:00 Hour pace groups.  She flew by the first group and within blocks caught up to the second pace group.  Because she still felt strong, she opted not to slow down and fall in with them.  Instead she   passed the second pace group as well and left her destiny in her own hands.

Kristen used her watch to pace herself for the rest of the race. She felt strong, confident, and fully equipped the entire distance.  Kristen tore across the finish line in 1:55:45 (8:50 pace), shattering her goal of 1:59:59.  In one year, Kristen shaved twenty-five minutes off her half marathon time!  That's almost two minutes per miles and she's just getting going.  This girl was made to run.  Kristen said, "This race still has me elated, emotional, and giddy.  I'm so happy this experience was the complete opposite of Girlfriends!"
Kristen post-race with her kiddos

Kristen's determination, consistency, and dedication have reaped huge dividends.  What started as a commitment to honor her friend has morphed into a new way of living life for Kristen and her family.  She has transformed her body, losing a staggering 65 pounds already.  Kristen's 2013 running goal is to pound the pavement for a minimum of 1,000 miles.  She's happy to say that she is way ahead of schedule to reach her 1,000 miles by December 31st!  

Kristen's newfound confidence is inspiring women all around her to join her in a life of health and fitness.  Her husband Travis remembered he liked swimming and got back in the pool.  Then he bought a bike and some running shoes.  He plans to race an Olympic-distance triathlon in a few weeks.  Their kids see their parents as strong, inspiring athletes.  Their son Max (3rd grade) wrote a paper and said this about his mom.  "My mom is working on being really strong.  She goes to exercise classes and tries to run every day."
Max's adorable story
I can't wait to see her cross the finish line of her first marathon cause I know she has it in her.

Thank you Sky, Courtney, Kathleen, and Kristen for being willing to share your stories with us.  We are so proud of all of you and look forward to hearing more about your running adventures.  Congratulations!


  1. Such inpirational stories! Kathleen - I LOVE your six inspiring words, "Run hard Kathleen! you've got this!" They are not only great for the race but for life! (I can just hear our Heavenly Father saying them!) Kristen - It is AMAZING what you have accomplished in just two years. You go girl!! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thanks for writing Christiane. I love the life parallel as well.

  2. I know Kathleen personally, and she truly is a "Getter Doner". She is very inspirational, and we all admire how she is able to push herself and motivate others. These are great stories, and it's a real blessing to read about everybody's accomplishments here. You all rock ('n' roll)!

    1. Thanks for taking time to leave a comment Tony. I'm glad you agree that Kathleen is a Getter Doner!

  3. Kathleen Joffer, you inspire me everyday more than you could possibly imagine. I love you and am blessed to do life with you :)

    1. John you and Kathleen are such a beautiful example of a couple in love.

  4. Kathleen and Kristen-
    Wow! I love your stories. Congratulations to both of you on your hard work and your finish times this weekend. Keep it up Sole Sisters!

  5. Oh my gosh ... was this supposed to make me cry??!! Well, it did...from start to finish! I am Kristen's Aunt Nancy, I have always loved her but now I am in awe of her!!
    "Quiet but fierce determination" ... I LOVE that!!

    1. Thanks for taking time to comment Aunt Nancy. I think Kristen is so inspiring and knew her story would be a blessing to all who read it!

  6. A pair of very unique and very powerful stories!

    There is nothing to compare with the encouragement of a friend. In the race of life, we all take turns encouraging or being encouraged. It sounds like these two ladies have found some good inspiration and are doing their parts to pass it on!

    1. Raina - I love that you always take time to comment on the blog posts. And you always have such nice things to say. I really look forward to the day that we can actually meet in person!

  7. I'm a friend of Kathleen's and loved your intro of her, it is perfect! I loved the message she had to share and it drove home the importance of encouraging others in their goals and how I have some room to improve. In Kathleen's case it was 6 simple words that completely changed her perspective for a race and for her future running perspective. I think we as a society find it easier to critique than encourage, admire but not acknowledge, and for something as easy as saying, "you've got this" can make such a difference in attitude and drive and yield such an great result, we should be looking for opportunities to lift and encourage our friends, coworkers, family, and people in our lives to achieve their goals. It doesn't take much, but what a difference it can make. Thanks for sharing Kathleen!

    1. really great insight Natalie. Thanks for taking time to read AND write a comment!