Live, laugh, love, run

Published 5:07 pm Saturday, July 12, 2008

Friends and family set out Saturday to honor April Sorensen by running a half marathon through Albert Lea and Hayward.

The first-ever April Sorensen Memorial Half Marathon was created as a way to celebrate Sorensen’s life after she was murdered in her home in Rochester on April 17, 2007. Her killer has not been found.

Sorensen was an Albert Lea High School graduate and grew up in Hayward. After her death her family wanted to create a way to remember her life and found a marathon would be fitting because marathons brought the family closer.

Email newsletter signup

Having the marathon run through the two communities where Sorensen spent most of her life was also fitting. The distance between Albert Lea and Hayfield set up well for the 13.1 mile run and the event ran in conjunction with Hayward Days and drew 272 runners.

“It just so happened it was Hayward Days and the half marathon distance was perfect from Albert Lea to Hayward,” April’s sister Holly Larson said. “It just kind of all fell into place.”

With the help of more than 250 volunteers the family was able to organize an event that would be a proper tribute to April who had come to enjoy running marathons.

“I’m very overwhelmed by the amount of people that came out,” April’s husband Joshua Sorensen said. “It’s been a great turnout and I couldn’t have imagined this many people to come out. It’s completely overwhelming.”

April was an athlete in high school and after college she began running in marathons with her sister Holly as a way to remain competitive in sports.

“It’s a great tribute to her,” Larson said. “She would be so happy today. She’s probably looking down, gleaming and really having a good time with it.”

The sisters started running six years ago and traveled across the country to compete in marathons.

“We really enjoyed it,” Larson said. “We loved to travel and we went to Chicago, Arizona and Duluth.”

April and Holly even got their father, Jon Larson, involved in marathons. He had never been a runner, but the two convinced him to run in the Twin Cities marathon in 2002 and he has stuck with it since.

“Holly started running to stay in shape and April was kind of a health nut anyway,” Jon said. “Finally I said OK.”

When the family first conceived of the idea of a half marathon they knew the project would involve a lot of time and effort but as the process took form everything went smoothly.

“We wanted something that would go on for years and years, so her name would be remembered,” Holly said. “Not only because she was a great person, but she loved to volunteer and be a part of different communities.”

As Holly ran the marathon her mind focused on April.

“She was always popping in my mind,” Holly said. “Kind of chatting with me, sitting on my shoulder, saying ‘Get your butt in gear.’”

Joshua grew up in the area, in Alden, and many people from the surrounding area took part in the marathon.

A former classmate of Joshua’s traveled from Faribault to run and won the race. Josh Schoen finished in a time of 1 hour, 12 minutes and 9 seconds.

A number of April’s former classmates participated in the run as they were in town for a class reunion held on the same day.

Desiree Essler, graduated with April and won the in the women’s field with a time of 1:20:44.

“It’s an honor to be here for April,” Essler said. “She was a really sweet person.”

The marathon brought together a strong showing of support throughout many communities and allowed April’s family a time to celebrate her life.

“It’s easier to ease the pain of the loss with friends and relatives,” Jon said. “Everybody is just coming together.”

For April’s husband the day was difficult, but good in the fact that her memory will endure.

“To see all of her friends here and all of her family it’s hard, it’s been a hard day,” Joshua said. “It makes a big difference that everybody is very happy and we’re celebrating.”