NEW TOWN When Fahtima Finley competes in the ING New York City Marathon on Nov. 6, she'll be running in memory of her sister and her family.
Finley said she wasn't going to participate in the marathon after her sister and family died in a two-vehicle crash on N.D. Highway 22 near Mandaree Sept. 11.
"But I know my sister would want me to go. She was always so proud of me in running," Finley said.
Submitted Photo • Fahtima Finley is shown here in the Brenda Hall-Dvorak Run held during the Mandaree Powwow this summer. She was the 10k women’s champion. Finley will run in the ING New York City Marathon Nov. 6.
Finley's sister, Sarah Johnson, her daughters, Gracie May Fox and Layla Little Owl, and Sarah's fiance and Layla's father, Ross Little Owl, all of New Town, were killed in the crash.
Finley, who lives in New Town, has been a runner for several years. She's competed in a number of runs on Fort Berthold Reservation and in other states.
She was notified April 28 that she qualified to run in the New York marathon on Sunday, Nov. 6.
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The marathon, considered the world's largest marathon drawing thousands of runners, is 26.2 miles in length. "It's almost like running from New Town to Mandaree," Finley said Friday.
Earlier on Friday, she ran 11 miles. "I've been working on increasing my mileage. She said sometimes she runs on the treadmill while watching a show or she runs on the path west of New Town.
Finley got the idea last year to apply to run in the New York marathon when she saw it on TV after she'd been out running. "That inspired me," she said.
She said she's always in training. "But once I applied (for the marathon), it made me want to train harder for it," she said.
Finley always participated in track and cross country in high school. She also played basketball but she said she didn't enjoy it as much as running. After her second son was born two years ago, she said she wanted to get back into running because she missed that feeling of finishing a run.
Last year, Finley qualified and ran in the USATF National Cross-Country Championships in North Carolina. She's qualified again for this year's championships which will be held in Seattle Dec. 10, and plans to be there. That race is 3.75 miles, she said. She said that's a sprint compared to what she'll run next month in New York City.
Finley isn't the only enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes who will be in the New York marathon. Jarret Baker will be participating too.
Baker was Finley's cross-country coach in high school. "Jarret has always been an inspiration to me, along with my two heroes Billy Mills and Steve Prefontaine," Finley said.
Finley will have a "cheering group" along with her to New York City her 7-year-old son DeSean, her grandmother Darlene Finley, her mother Jodi, and her companion Carson Hood Jr. All are of New Town. Her grandmother has never missed a race, her granddaughter said.
Finley's other son, Tekoah, 2, will stay home with grandparents.
She's working on getting T-shirts for the group, emblazed with "Team Running Star Woman" on the front. Running Star is Finley's Indian name.
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" will be imprinted on the back of the T-shirt. "He's who I pray to before every race and gives me my extra push to finish," Finley said.
Many others will be cheering her on back home too, including co-workers. Finley is the Community Traffic Safety administrator with the tribal Planning and Grants Office headed by Lisa Redford. She has worked for the tribes for nine years, including five of those years with the Planning office.
When Finley makes her run on Nov. 6 in New York City, she said she knows her sister will be there to cheer her on.
"I believe on November 6th she will be right with me all the way to the finish line," she said.