Only 1 person (and about 40 others) could pull this marathon vet out of retirement

Patricia Carlin-Janssen has run marathons before. It’s just been a long, long time since she ran one.

Carlin-Janssen hails from Grand Rapids, Minnesota. “Most people talk about living east or west of the Mississippi [River],” she says. “I live north of the Mississippi.”

She ran her first marathon as a medical student at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Ahead of her third marathon, she vowed that if she finished in under four hours she’d retire from the grueling races. She finished with 29 seconds to spare, and was happy to, as she put it, “retire.”

It was easy to stay retired from marathons once she had a family and became a small town doctor, but she still kept active as a more casual runner. Now her kids are all grown up, and her oldest daughter named Cari, has brought her out of retirement.

“When your daughter asks you to do something like that, to do that type of challenge again,” she said. “You don’t say no.” This will be her daughter’s first ever marathon.

The Marine Corps Marathon is the only marathon she could even possibly run, though. For one, Cari Janssen lives in Fredericksburg and works as a civilian at Marine Corps Base Quantico.

“She works with Marines,” said Patty. “She sees what they do day in and day out, and this is a way as a civilian to again show her appreciation of them.”

But for Patty, it’s also a chance to honor a long list of family and friends who have served over the years.

“When I was thinking about this marathon, I was thinking, ‘OK I should dedicate a mile to different people,'” said Carlin-Janssen. “When I started going through that list, I realized, ‘Oh I’m going to have to have more than one person per mile.'”

The list includes her husband, Conley Janssen, who served from 1987 to 1993. Also on there is her grandfather, who served in the Army in World War I. Her husband’s grandfathers both served too. Their son, Grant Janssen, has been a Marine since 2017. Her youngest daughter, Kali Janssen, is in the Navy and stationed in Spain.

There’s also a long list of extended family members, living and dead, whom she’ll be running for.
In all, she’ll be running for about 40 people total, with each given a special marking on her arm.

“We’ve got a lot of people that we’re running for,” she admitted.

But while their hearts will be with the long list of people they’re running to honor, their eyes will be on the course, watching all of the spectators.

“I hope any spectator is able to bring dogs with them,” she remarked. “My daughter and I oftentimes rate how good a race or run is by dogs per mile, so we’re hoping for a really good dogs-per-mile race, too.”

Now when she crosses the finish line, Patty and her daughter will be looking for some really good chocolate milk. Patty will also be yearning for home, too. You remember how she lives not east or west but north of the Mississippi River, right?

“One of my things that I like to do after my long runs here is I go and I stand in the cold waters of the Mississippi River,” said Carlin-Janssen. “It’s just magical on my legs.”

It might not compare, but if you see someone standing in the Potomac after the race, it might be Patty.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow WTOP on Twitter and Instagram to engage in conversation about this article and others.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2022 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up