70: She Ran a Good Race

70: She Ran a Good Race

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Best Mom Ever!

She Ran a Good Race

You’ve got to get up every morning with determination if you’re going to go to bed with satisfaction.

~George Lorimer

My friend completed a 5K in October 2015 with the help of her daughter Jan, her son-in-law Rod, and two of their good friends. What’s so remarkable about that, you might be asking? My friend Irma Koehneke was ninety-eight and completely blind!

Here’s how it all started. Rod and Jan are veteran marathon walkers. Over the years, Irma had been listening to them talk about their races and how they trained for them. One day, Jan mentioned that she was thinking about walking the St. Joe’s 5K in Neenah, Wisconsin, a race to benefit the Saint Joseph Food Pantry. Irma decided she would do it too, and one month before the big event, she started training by walking the halls at her care facility. One person walked with Irma, while another staff member followed behind with the wheelchair, just in case she needed to rest.

On the day of the event, Irma and her support team lined up at the start line. Irma walked across the start line and then alternated between being pushed in her chair for 100 yards and walking 100 feet. Along the route, people cheered, “Go Irma!” Sixty-two minutes later Irma and her crew walked across the finish line. What an experience! But the best was yet to come.

After finishing the race, all the participants were treated to a brunch provided by the sponsors of the race. Hundreds of athletes gathered in the hotel for the awarding of the medals. Of course, Irma was given one in recognition of her accomplishment as “first place” in her age category.

Much to her surprise, Irma was invited to the podium to say a few words. She opened her remarks by saying, “I always ask God why he still has me on this earth. Well, I’m here to get the word out — Jesus loves you and He has died for you.”

You could have heard a pin drop in that cavernous room. Irma made a few more heartfelt remarks before going back to her table. She touched many lives that day.

For several weeks after the race, people called to congratulate Irma, and two people interviewed her for magazines. Her photos made it onto Facebook, too. Irma is well known as the widow of the former president of Concordia University Chicago, where her daughter Jan went to college as well, so she served as an inspiration not only to her own family, but to all the young college students who learned of her feat. It was a wonderful mother-daughter experience.

~Judy Mickelson

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