In Remembrance of Johanna Olson

This is a repost of an article Doug Binder wrote February 25, 2010 about Johanna Olsen and her fight with cancer.  We at TrackFocus send our condolences to the family and friends of this brave young woman.

Johanna Olson said Thursday that she is eager to fly to Corvallis this weekend and take part in a running event created in her honor.

Olson, 30, is an accomplished marathoner who spent a year as a volunteer assistant coach with the Oregon State women’s cross country team (2005-06). She also attended graduate school and taught 10K running classes there as well.

She also has a Grade 4 malignant brain tumor, is undergoing chemotherapy, and faces mounting medical bills.

On Sunday morning, an event called the Tumor Shooter aims to raise money for Olson and provide an opportunity for people to show that they care.

“I’m super excited to see people that I haven’t seen in a couple of years,” said Olson, who lives in Minneapolis, Minn.

She admitted that she expected the event to be emotional, but she also wants to show everyone that she’s doing well.

The event was organized by Strands, a web-based company in Corvallis that has established deep roots in the running community. Olson said she didn’t even know about the event until one of her friends called to tell her it was happening.

“I was totally floored,” Olson said. “I had no idea any one was planning to do this for me.”

The shorter race, the Tiny Tumor, will cover three miles of damp trails west of the university campus and begins at 9 a.m. The Big Tumor, a seven-miler will start 10 minutes later.

Olson said she planned to run in the event.

“I am so slow right now, but I’m also very appreciative,” she said.

After leaving Corvallis in 2008, Olson lived in Spokane for a year and the tumor resurfaced (she had a previous brain operation to remove a tumor in 1997). She felt like she had a dark shadow hanging over her and the sensation of “a third arm.”

“I know, it sounds strange,” she said.

Olson remains upbeat about her condition, and busy.

In addition to volunteering as a coach at Hamline University, she holds down a job at Starbucks.

She does all of that, and also finds time to run, despite a regimen of five-day bouts of chemo followed by 23 days to recuperate. Then she repeats that cycle.

For the moment, the tumor is stable.

She wants everyone to know that it hasn’t darkened her spirit. She’s as upbeat as ever, looking forward to living as long, and happily, as she can.

“I don’t think I’m going to die,” she said.

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