Jill Kestel, a 2001 St. Mary's graduate and daughter of Jeff and Jane Kestel of Storm Lake, now of Omaha says she feels pretty fortunate about being able to train for a marathon. Kestel was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia when she was a freshman in high school in 1997 at St. Mary's.
"I feel very lucky to do what I do after everything I've gone through," she says. Kestel and her younger sister Megan have agreed to run in the Rock n' Roll Marathon which will take place in Arizona in January.
But first things first - they plan to be part of the first "Jump Right in and Run Storm Lake" event Sunday, August 31 in their hometown. Jill jokes and says she hopes the half marathon will have her prepared enough to run a marathon since she's never run one before.
"These two sisters have a lot of love for one another. They should be great motivation for anyone else who might think about running the 5K, half marathon or relay," said Grace Ivey, an organizer for the "Jump Right in and Run" event.
The annual Rock 'n' Roll marathon to follow is sponsored by P.F. Chang and tours through three of Arizona's cities and offers live music every mile. Jill says she learned about the marathon from a co-worker of Megan's who has been trying to convince the sisters to join her in a run. "We finally gave in, we'll see how it goes," says Jill with a chuckle. "I've heard it's a lot of fun."
One of Megan's co-worker has run the marathon before. Both girls say it's been great having each other to train with - and that they motivate each other to keep at it. Megan was on the swim team at College of St. Benedict and now she says she has taken up running to help stay in shape. Jill was an athlete at St. Mary's, and received the Brian Pearson Memorial Scholarship through tthe Iowa Games.
The sisters say they hope to start small, and the Storm Lake 13.1 miles half-marathon will fit nicely into their progress about half-way through their training plan.
Their friend Ericka, who talked them into marathon running, plans to join them here.
"It's fun. Something we've never done before," says Megan.
Kestel says she had chemotherapy treatments for the majority of her freshman year and since then has had to have regular check-ups. "At the end of my chemotherapy I was basically in full remission," she says. Kestel says she remembers the support from the community was overwhelming. "My family was great, they were always there," she says. Kestel is now a full time pharmacist in Omaha after graduating last year from Creighton University.
Megan graduated from St. Mary's in 2002 and after graduating from the College of St. Benedict, moved to Omaha to take an elementary school teaching job and moved in with Jill.