Every morning, rain or shine, the route around Capitol Lake is a destination for runners, many of whom are unaware they are retracing the steps of our city’s history. Back in the 80’s, Olympia was the site of the first ever US Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials in 1984, helping to solidify our place in the lore of runners around the nation. The 1984 US Marathon Trials changed the running world for the better, finally incorporating women competitors running incredible distances at the highest level. It also brought the citizens of Olympia together, celebrating this historic and amazing achievement. Today, the runners of our community are continuing the tradition of changing the world and our community, one stride at a time.
An Olympia resident since she moved here from Argentina in1988, Fabiana Eussen loves Olympia’s culture and community pride. As an avid runner, she wanted to use her passion to do her part to bring the community together and create something that encourages health and community involvement. Looking to her children’s elementary school’s needs, she decided to create a 5K race as a fundraiser.
“This all started for my kids,” Fabiana said. “I really wanted to put on a fundraiser for the school that was more than door to door sales or selling trinkets. I wanted the fundraiser to be something that really helps community, and since I like to run, I thought it would be good to have kids go out with their families and community members to help raise money and lift their mind, body and souls.”
In 2014, Fabiana created the Roosevelt Roadrunner 5K, with the course weaving through the neighborhoods of Northeast Olympia and Mission Creek each June. The money raised goes to help Roosevelt Elementary students go on field trips, as well as help buy books and classroom supplies. The race is open to kids, parents and community members of all skill levels. The run even draws some of the competitive racers in the region, like Ultra-Runner Mathias Eichler of Olympia. Mathias, who runs 50K and 50-mile races, has participated in the Roosevelt Run with his kids and thinks the event is great for the community and school.
“The Roosevelt 5K is my first 5K race I ever ran. It’s a really fun course, including some hills and a jaunt through Mission Creek Nature Park, but what makes me come back to this race is the family-friendly atmosphere and the community-oriented organization,” said Mathias. “Run or walk, this is a great way to explore your town. And who knows, perhaps you’ll catch the bug and we’ll run together on a long trail race deep in the middle of the forest one day.”
After successfully creating the Roosevelt Run in 2014, Fabiana wanted to do more for her community, expanding the runs to all of Thurston County. She had a goal of creating more races and sought help from a local running legend, Greg Kline of South Sound Running fame. Together, Greg and Fabiana have figured out the logistics of creating memorable runs for a good cause. Today, Fabiana organizes three other events, each helping the Thurston County Food Bank. So far, the group has received over 300 pounds of food and $1,000 in donations, on top of the $4,000 raised in entry fees. While there is some overhead to organize these events, most of the funds go to the food bank.
After just four months of planning and organizing, Fabiana has organized the Spooktacular Sprint. Starting and ending at Priest Point Park, the race provides runners with candy and warm drinks. Costumes are always encouraged, but are not mandatory as the goal of this event is to have fun, create friendships and raise money for the Thurston County Food Bank’s FORKids program. This race also has a relationship with another school in the region, Lacey Elementary School. Since 2014, Fabiana’s running business, Kick Start Events, has worked with the school, letting the students run for free and receive all the goodies that come with running 5Ks.
Fabiana is very proud of this, beaming when she speaks of the relationship between the races and Lacey Elementary. “They come in and have a great time, coming back year after year. Even after leaving elementary school, they are welcome to come back and be part of the community and the larger family we have created.”
Not to be outdone, the other two races Fabiana has organized have also become popular around the region. The Valentine’s Day 5K is a fun run around east Olympia and Priest Point Park, and also provides warm drinks and candy to the families, couples and solo runners enjoying the February weather. Later in the year, the Firecracker 5K kicks off our nation’s birthday. Racing around Capitol Lake and up the switchbacks to the Capitol campus, the Firecracker 5K is sure to become one of the quintessential races in Olympia. The post-run popsicles are a bonus to this beautiful run.
Olympia is lucky to have people like Fabiana helping great causes. Through her runs, she has created lasting memories for families and brought the community together during fun events.
“I love having people from all walks of life come together with a common interest,” Fabiana said. “Health, wellness, community; for me that is what I love. Seeing people chat and cheer on other runners, the events bring us all together for a celebration of Olympia.”