Mary Esther’s wife runs a marathon to raise money for veterans’ pet care


You could be forgiven if you didn’t know a marathon was happening all over Fort Walton Beach on Wednesday. There were no packs of runners, no crowds of cheering fans and no blocked streets.

This marathon had only one runner with very personal reasons for her race.

Mary Esther resident Wiebke KenShin Andersen left her home at 7:15 a.m. Wednesday to embark on a route that would take her through mostly residential streets in Fort Walton Beach, the neighborhoods of Ocean City and Wright, Shalimar , then back home via Fort Walton Beach. and Mary Esther.

Andersen, 52, returned home 6 hours and 14 minutes later, recording exactly 57,000 steps on her GPS device.

Andersen has run a marathon before and is no stranger to the hobby.

Wiebke KenShin Andersen runs along Monahan Drive Wednesday morning about halfway through his marathon.

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“Running has been my ‘favorite health routine, both mentally and physically,'” she said.

But the impetus for the marathon came from the loss of one of her cats, a black mustache calico named Frida. Anderson found the cat in poor health and living on the streets in May 2021. She took the cat in and cared for it as best she could, but sadly Frida succumbed to cancer in January.

“When Frida died, I decided I was going to run a marathon,” Andersen said. “I was really sad, so I just put my energy into racing.”

With a photo of her cat Frida pinned to the back of her running jersey, Wiebke KenShin Andersen waves to a supporter as she runs a marathon around the Fort Walton Beach area.

When she started training three months ago, she decided that in addition to honoring her lost cat, she would use the marathon as a fundraiser.

Andersen is director of operations for the Zaltho Foundation, a local nonprofit organization that promotes peace and nonviolence through spiritual practices rooted in self-reflection. The foundation organizes workshops nationally and internationally that help address the causes and consequences of violence and help people who suffer from trauma.

The foundation was established in 1993 by Vietnam veteran Claude AnShin Thomas, and one of the groups served by the foundation are veterans and their families.

Wiebke KenShin Andersen runs across the Shalimar Bridge en route to running a marathon in the greater Fort Walton Beach area.

“Animals are so important to us, and that’s especially true for veterans.” Andersen said.

So she decided to use her marathon as a fundraiser to help veterans who can’t afford to provide veterinary care for their pets.

She created a GoFundMe page and has so far raised around $2,500 towards her goal. Andersen plans to coordinate with local vets to help distribute the funds to veterans in need.

“Running, animals and veterans have always been close to my heart and mind,” said Andersen, who ran her marathon with a photo of Frida pinned to the back of her running jersey and focused on the chat when the going got tough.

Andersen said the last 3-4 miles on Hollywood Boulevard was the biggest challenge, mostly because of the heat and lack of shade.

“There was no way I wouldn’t finish, even if I had to walk,” said Andersen, who added that she kept thinking, “This is for Frida and all the animals.”

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