On Nov. 3, more than 52,000 athletes competed in the annual New York City Marathon. Twelve of them made history.
Two of those 12 are from Jordan.
Sunny Klein and her brother Joe Sommers were among the first athletes to compete as a duo in the world’s largest marathon. Sommers was born with a chromosomal abnormality that limits his movement and cognitive abilities, but that hasn’t stopped him from completing countless 5Ks, 10Ks and a couple half-marathons alongside his sister for more than a decade.
Early this year, the brother-sister team stepped up their game and started training for a 26-mile run after being accepted as one of the first duo teams in the New York City Marathon’s history.
Preparation included raising funds for a new jogging wheelchair for Joe, which arrived only days before the event. Joe’s previous jogger had fallen into disrepair and Sunny would find out it was severely hampering her running ability.
“The new jogger came and we didn’t really have a chance to run with it, which was scary,” Sunny said. “We got out there and started running and it was like ‘oh my gosh, this thing is so nice.’”
Sunny said the run wasn’t as difficult as expected. She found motivation in Joe’s endless enthusiasm and the support of thousands of spectators as they traversed all five boroughs of New York City.
“Every time I was struggling people would put their head under the fence and yell ‘you got this, dig deep,’ and I totally got through it because of the kindness of strangers,” Sunny said.
The marathon was Sunny’s first 26-mile run. Prior to the race, she and Joe ran up to 24 miles before tapering back down in the weeks leading up to the marathon. Her 24-mile run was five hours and 25 minutes, so she was hoping to complete the New York City Marathon in about six hours.
But with the help of an enthusiastic crowd and a new jogger, Sunny and Joe did better than they could’ve ever imagined. They rolled across the Central Park finish line with a time of 5 hours and 3 minutes.
“We took an hour off of our time just because of the new jogger,” Sunny said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better scenario. We got to explore the city, it was really neat to see the different neighborhoods and to be cheered on by all races, ages and cultures.”
The duo faced some tough stretches in the Big Apple, but Sunny said the diverse terrain and gravel roads of Jordan prepared them well.
“New York City has nothing on the hills of Jordan,” she said. “We would do half of our run on gravel, which was pretty brutal, but it payed off on race day.”
The night after the race Sunny was inspired to write a poem that captured what it felt like to share that special day with her brother and to be supported by strangers, family and friends.
“I hope we inspired some other people to go try something that’s out of their comfort zone because it was really cool and I can’t believe we did it,” she said. “It all just came out of a crazy idea I had last winter.”
After one week back home, Sunny said she already misses training with Joe.
“That day was awesome, but the journey was even a little greater,” she said. “I guess it still surprises me that the coolest part of this thing was the journey. The day was awesome but it was so much more.”