Women are growing field in marathons like Seattle's Rock 'n' Roll event
Mother and daughter Angela Slendebroek and Stephanie Abdulkader are participating in Saturday morning's popular Seattle race to honor a loved one who died of cancer.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Where: Starts and ends at Seattle Center
Music: Half marathon and full marathon features live bands every mile.
Time limits: Seven hours for marathon, four hours for half marathon.
When Stephanie Abdulkader suggested to her 64-year old mother Angela Slendebroek in February they should participate in the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, Slendebroek had her doubts.
"Me, run a marathon?" Slendebroek said when her daughter asked. "Oh God, no."
Abdulkader, 30, carried on with the registration and signed up for the half marathon that same night. She clicked around on the site and learned about the marathon's partnership with the American Cancer Society, which included an endurance program to help prepare for the race, called DetermiNation.
From that point, Abdulkader had no doubt in her mind. They had to run this race.
Her father, Hans, passed away on April 9, 2011, after an 18-month battle with lung cancer. Abdulkader and Slendebroek wanted to place their emotions into something positive to honor their 71-year old father.
"The way it unfolded, it worked out just right," Abdulkader said.
Women's participation and charity-led groups have played an important role in the increase in half-marathon participants. It's the fastest growing road-race distance in the United States since 2003, according to Running USA.
Half-marathon finishers have increased by 234 percent since 2000. A record 59 percent of the more than 1.6 million half-marathon finishers were females.
Women accounted for 65 percent of last year's field in Seattle, said John Bingham of the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series.
"It's only really been a generation or so, but this is a remarkable change and I think it's fantastic," Bingham said.
Slendebroek and Abdulkader said they pushed each other to wake up every morning at 5 a.m. to run.
Slendebroek said she had high blood pressure and couldn't run a mile two years ago. The preparation for this event has changed her lifestyle.
"Now I'm running 13.1 miles. Give me a break," she said, laughing. "That's unbelievable."
Slendebroek and Abdulkader have raised more than $1,600 each for the American Cancer Society in every way possible. They've stood outside grocery stores in the freezing rain, held garage sales, asked for sponsorships and linked family and friends to their blogs to submit online payments.
"(Hans) would give the shirt off of his back for someone else," Abdulkader said about her father. "He never had a lot of money in his wallet, but he would always carry a dollar and he'd always give it to someone else.
"I know that's what he would've chosen for us to do because he loved people."
Described as a stubborn Dutchman, he continued to run his business, Dutch Masters Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning, throughout his chemotherapy treatment up until his last month.
As much as his family wanted him to relax, they couldn't get him to sit down. He continued to climb ladders to install lights in his cathedral-style ceiling, with oxygen attached to his nostrils. He built a shed on the side of the house by himself.
But he also kept his family's spirits up during the difficult time.
Slendebroek said her husband made the family stronger.
"The motivation to do this run is bigger than yourself," Slendebroek said. "I just had to do it. It's something way, way, way above us."