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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Running for the challenge: Hundreds turn out for 2018 Spokane Marathon

Michelle Wicks runs toward the finish of the 2018 Spokane marathon flanked by her best friend Vanessa Klein, left, and her husband, Andre Wicks, right. About 10 feet in front of them, a dozen teenage soccer players from Klein and Wicks’ team, the Spokane Scotties, waited with their families to cheer Wicks on. (Rebecca White / The Spokesman-Review)

Her best friend holding one hand and her husband holding the other, Michelle Wicks jogged across the finish line into a screaming crowd. Wicks, one of hundreds to complete the half-marathon route of the Spokane Marathon on Sunday, had her own personal cheering section of adolescent girls, shouting her name while waving pink sparkly signs embossed with crossed, pink ribbons.

Wicks, a soccer coach and mother, was diagnosed with breast cancer last October. In December, she underwent double mastectomy surgery followed by reconstruction surgeries over the next six months. While recovering from the mastectomy, she pledged to challenge herself.

“I couldn’t do anything,” she said. “I said next year … I’m going to do something I’ve never done.”

The majority of her fans gathered at the finish line were Spokane Scotties club soccer team players, and many look up to Wicks as a role model and mother figure, co-coach Vanessa Klein said. Klein, who crossed the finish line beside her friend, said she brought most of the team together to surprise Wicks.

Klein said the two had been training for the marathon since April. Wicks was restricted to walking at first, but through runs with their children, friends and her husband was able to rebuild her strength. She said her support system, prayer and athlete mindset carried her through the last year of hardship.

“That surgery was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through,” she said. “But I used my sports background … to say I can do this, even on those days that it was brutal.”

Wicks was one of hundreds who crossed the finish line Sunday morning. Brenda Gill, a member of the nonprofit Spokane Marathon organization, said most of the participants signed up for the half marathon or 10K race and finished within a few hours. The marathon officially ended at about 1 p.m., but she said volunteers still stay at the finish line to offer snacks and encouragement to any stragglers.

She said the course, which includes a view of the Spokane Falls and a trek up Doomsday Hill, may be one of the most difficult marathons in the area. This year may have been harder than usual, she said, due to freezing temperatures at the marathon’s sunrise start time, and temperate late-morning sunshine.

“I think a lot of people were struggling with how to dress,” she said.

Brittany Bear, a first year medical student at WSU, completed the marathon in a little over three hours. She originally planned to compete in the Boston Marathon, but after injuring her hamstring, she was forced to sit out and try again later in the year. She said the Spokane marathon was difficult compared to some of the other marathons she’s run, but isn’t sure if it was due to the hills or being scheduled on a chilly October morning.

Bear said she was the ninth person and second woman to complete the marathon.

The winner in the 80 and up half-marathon division, Tad Hasebe, said he’s competed in nearly two-dozen marathons in his lifetime and trains constantly. He said he’s competed in the Boston Marathon and Bloomsday and doesn’t mind the hills. He said his favorite portion of the run was looking over the city and the view of the waterfall.

Hasebe said this is his last marathon of the year, but he already has his next event in Montana scheduled.

Michelle Wicks said she doesn’t have another marathon scheduled, but intends to spend the next few months celebrating life by trying a few more things she hasn’t done before.