HJ/EDMarch 20, 2006

Winsted native to run marathon in Alaska

By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

Alaska is a state where most people first think of snow, sled dog races, and maybe a few igloos.

However, that is not what Phyllis Jagodzinski Johnson, native of Winsted, is preparing for when she heads to that state this summer.

Johnson, who currently lives in Campbell, Calif., is getting in shape to run 26.2 miles in “The Mayor’s Midnight Sun” marathon in Anchorage, Alaska June 17 to raise money for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society invests in research to find cures for blood cancers like leukemia, the number one disease killer of children, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease, and myeloma.

Johnson is also running in loving memory of her uncle, David Jagodzinski, who was born, raised, and then farmed on the family farm near Winsted with his wife, Shirley.

Johnson remembered, “As a little girl, visiting and staying with David and Shirley, it was always a really special treat. They had no children of their own, and David played with us endlessly, it seemed.”

In 1961, Dave was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease, later known as Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It was thought to be caused by pesticides he used to spray the crops and even the fly spray used on his cows.

He fought the disease with the treatments available at the time. After seven years, he lost his battle with cancer. He was 36 years old at the time.

Johnson said, “I was just a freshman in high school and remember vividly how his family, including his parents, brother, and sisters, and their families were deeply devastated.”

That was in 1968 when the five-year survival rate was only 40 percent. Today, the incidence of Hodgkin’s lymphoma is nearly doubled, but because of the research funded by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the survival rate is 86 percent, and it is considered one of the most curable forms of cancer.

Johnson has begun preparing for the marathon with Team In Training (TNT), a major fund raiser for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. It was recently voted “Best Charity Training Program” by CitySports Magazine for the third time.

She trains with the team three times per week. The team does long training runs Saturday mornings at various locations. Currently, the group is running 10 to 12 miles, mostly on local trails.

In a month or so, they will get into longer runs of 16 to 20 miles, where they will run on various trails near the Pacific Ocean and Monterrey Bay. Tuesday buddy runs are a shorter distance, and Thursday, there are night track workouts to build strength and stamina.

On Johnson’s days off she sometimes runs a few miles with her husband, who ran marathons in ‘96 and ‘97. Johnson also bikes and does yoga. She said, “It is as much about preventing injury as about being able to run and complete the marathon.”

Mayor’s Midnight Sun

The “Mayor’s Midnight Sun” marathon day June 17, will be during Alaska’s summer solstice. Sunrise on the day of the marathon will be at 4:21 a.m., and sunset at 11:43 p.m. That means nearly 20 hours of daylight.

Since 1974, the Anchorage marathon has been attracting runners from all over the world. This year, more than 3,500 runners are expected.

Jagodzinski-Johnson history

Johnson grew up on a farm three miles east of Winsted, the second of eight girls. Through their hard work and commitment, her parents, Marian and Dominic Jagodzinski, put all eight of the girls through 12 years of education at Holy Trinity. Her sisters are Monica (Nelson), Kate (Tumilty), Cindy, Lorna (Slott), Terri (Gens), Micki (Ernhart), and Carrie.

Johnson graduated from Holy Trinity High School in 1972 and Normandale Community College in Bloomington in 1976.

She married her husband, Dave, in 1997 and moved to the Silicon Valley in Mountain View, Calif.

The Johnsons are the parents of 6-year-old triplets, Matthew, Grace, and Evan, who began full-day kindergarten last fall. “We have been thoroughly blessed, they enrich our lives daily, ” she said of her children.

Johnson is committed to raising $10,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to find cures for cancers. As of March 12, she has raised almost one-third of that goal, $3,163.

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