Kean embraces fear running in Ragnar

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJuly 17, 2014 

Karen Kean's knowledge of the Northwest Passage Ragnar Relay doesn't extend too far.

On the eve of the 12-man, two-day long race that spans 195.6 miles, Kean acknowledged her nervousness, running more than she ever has in any given race before.

But therein lays purpose, she said, confronting something at 52 years old that once would seem like an insurmountable task years ago.

"My goal is to try things that scare (me) as much as I possibly can," she said in a phone interview. "I kind of feel like the best thing about being afraid of something is after you conquered it being on the other side ... and feeling the accomplishment."

The Northwest Passage Ragnar Relay begins Friday, July 18, with the first leg beginning at Peace Arch State Park in Blaine. The run spans two days, beginning in Blaine, coursing down through Ferndale, Bellingham and Mount Vernon before coming up around the Skagit Bay and finishing at the Island County Fairgrounds in Langley. Each team must complete 36 legs - three legs per runner.

Kean's participation in the event wasn't planned. Carol Frazey, who runs Fit School Inc. in Bellingham, encouraged her to join her husband Paul Frazey in the relay.

Both will be competing in Jonathan Lantz's group called Vella Shpringa, which translated from its Pennsylvania Dutch origins loosely stands for "let's run."

Lantz, 29, has assembled a group ranging all across the United States, with runners coming from Alaska, Utah, Washington, Illinois and Pennsylvania.

"It's kind of crazy," Lantz said in a phone interview. "I've never met a couple of the people."

The level of unfamiliarity played into Kean's nerves heading into the race. Most competing in Lantz's team are experienced runners, having a pedigree that far outweighs her two-plus years of running.

"With Ragnar, being a part of the relay team with other people depending on me as one of the legs of the team, I want to make sure that I give them the very best I can," she said," and that makes me nervous."

Ragnar offers yet another milestone for Kean. Two years ago, with her daughter Hannah beginning cross country at Blaine High School, Kean wanted to be able to run with her.

At first, she struggled "staying in the same county" with her daughter, but in time while devoting herself to Carol Frazey's Fit School Inc., running became a strong passion in her life.

"Now it's a stress reliever. It's mind clearing," she said. "It's just so much of what you need to have in your every-day life."

Kean isn't competing in the Ragnar to win, mirroring Lantz's philosophy, as well. She's embraced the pace in which she feels comfortable running at, both with her daughter and in the races she's competed in, the Ragnar being no exception.

Reach Alex Bigelow at alex.bigelow@bellinghamherald.com or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.

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