You'd expect that, as a behavioral health specialist, Sarah Christensen would be better than most people at handling grief. Not so.

When her husband died five years ago at age 65, it took Christensen a couple years to get back on track. She did it with the help of a grief counselor, a personal trainer, Weight Watchers and walking, which turned into running. Even she points out that becoming a runner at age 62 was a major life changer.

Now she kicking it up a notch. On Sunday, Oct. 28, the five-year anniversary of her husband Ron's death, she and Ron's nephew will participate in the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) in Washington, D.C., honoring Ron's memory not only as a husband and uncle, but as a U.S. Army vet who served as a medic in the Vietnam War. 

Christensen's employer Cigna is a sponsor for the MCM and had an essay contest for its employees: "What does it mean to have a vet in your life?"

Christensen wrote about Ron, his service to his country, how she met him, his close bond with his nephew, retired Lance Cpl. Rick Sandburg of Chicago, and how the date of this year's race holds such special significance.

As the essay contest winner, Christensen and Sandburg will be special guests at MCM's dignitaries dinner Friday night.

Sunday, Christensen, now 64, will run the 10K; Sandburg the 26.2 marathon. 

Q: It would seem your profession would have prepared you for grief.

A: Life is so unscripted. You never know what is going to happen. The depression doesn’t preclude what you do for a living. I was working through grief, doing unhealthy things. I knew I needed to get my physical and mental health back ... Sharing your grief with someone who’s been through something similar helps through those dark times. There’s always light at the end of the tunnel. It's been five years of finding a new path. More than anything, this 10K is like walking through the door to life's next chapter.

Q: How are you training for the 10K?

A: I run three miles everyday, but train mostly on weekends, running four, five or six miles. I'm in it not to race, but for me, and I want to experience the Marine Corps thing. The last two miles are straight uphill, with Marines lining both sides cheering you on. There's also 300 flags representing fallen Marines along the way way where everyone is absolutely silent, and you go past all the Washington monuments. 

Q: How did you and your husband meet?

A: We met on a blind date (20 years ago) through some friends. He was a widower and my friends said, "You know what, he’s started to date again." We were Lake Minnetonka people. He loved boats, and later in life found a job selling boats at a Minnetonka marina. He was 65 when he died. The cancer was quick. He was diagnosed before Christmas 2012; he had an operation but it grew back and it was aggressive. We were, and his doctors were, devastated. He died on Oct. 28, 2013.

— Unsie Zuege


Unsie Zuege is an award-winning multimedia journalist, who enjoys community journalism, bibimbop, Netflix, Trivia Mafia and snuggling tiny dogs, not necessarily in that order.


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