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Emerson runs New York City Marathon in husband’s memory

Fans cheered for “Team Ritter” as Pam Emerson ran the New York City Marathon on Nov. 3.1 / 3
Pam Emerson and Micaela Ellevold pose for a photo in Time Square during their visit to New York for the New York City Marathon. 2 / 3
Pam Emerson (center row, far right) is shown with Team Ritter, the day before they ran the New York City Marathon. Seated in front are John Ritter's children and his widow, Amy Yasbeck.3 / 3

Pam Emerson ran the New York City Marathon in the memory of her husband, Bruce, and to raise awareness about thoracic aortic dissection, the disease that took his life.

When Pam Emerson completed the New York City Marathon on Nov. 3, it was the fulfillment of the goal she’d spent most of the past year working toward.

Bruce Emerson died on Feb. 5, being struck down suddenly by aortic dissection. It was at first thought that he had suffered a heart attack. Aortic dissections have many of the same signs as a heart attack. The aorta is the largest artery in the human body, distributing oxygenated blood to the body. Aortic dissection is a shredding or aneurysm of the aorta. More information on the disease can be found at the Thoracic Aortic Disease Coalition website:

Pam ran the marathon as part of “Team Ritter.” The team was named after actor John Ritter, who died in 2003 from aortic dissection. The John Ritter Foundation was created that year by his widow, actress Amy Yasbeck, to help inform the public about the importance of aortic health.

Last year, the John Ritter Foundation became an official charity of the New York City Marathon, but the 2012 marathon wasn’t run because of Tropical Storm Sandy.

Emerson was one of 20 runners in Team Ritter. All the team members had raised funds for the foundation as part of their race preparation. The team’s effort brought a great deal of publicity to the foundation. Two of the team members and their families were guests on Good Morning America on ABC. The team has raised more than $114,000 and donations can still be made at the Ritter Foundation website:

Yasbeck hosted an event for all the team members the day before the race. Emerson said Yasbeck entertaining in making all of the team members feel welcomed. Yasbeck, like Ritter, is well known for her comedy roles. She starred in the TV Series “Wings” and has appeared in movies like “Pretty Woman,” “Robin Hood: Men In Tights” and the “Problem Child” movies.

Emerson said the race day was all her senses could take in. Running with the emotion of her husband’s memory, she was soon swept up in the pandemonium of the race and the hundreds of thousands of people who lined the 26.2-mile course.

“They all embraced you as a New Yorker,” Emerson said.

She said there were bands and DJ’s all along the course. She’d brought earphones for the race, but decided not to use them because she didn’t want to miss any of the experience.

To prepare for the New York marathon, Emerson ran the Whistlestop Marathon in Ashland on Oct. 12. She said that was a highly emotional race because much of the course was run through quiet, wooded areas.

“That was really a “Bruce” moment. It was run through the woods and he would have loved the course,” she said.

Running the Whistlestop marathon also left her with a case of shin splints, which limited her training for the New York marathon. She said she was fine for the first 24 miles in New York, before the pain in her legs and her emotions began to weigh on her. Emerson wasn’t about to stop, fighting through the pain to finish the race in 4 hours, 17 minutes.

Emerson said she was impressed with the security for the marathon. She and her daughter, Micaela Ellevold, took the Staten Island Ferry to the race. Stationed at the front of the ferry was a police officer with a machine gun. The runners cross the Staten Island Bridge early in the race and a New York police helicopter hovered over the bridge to assure the runners’ safety.

The day after the race, Emerson and Ellevold got to see some of the sites in New York. One they made sure to visit was Strawberry Fields in Central Park.

“That was for Bruce, he loved The Beatles,” Emerson said.

She said one of the best parts of that day was seeing all of the runners who completed the marathons, proudly showing off their race medals to each other.

Emerson said she is strongly considering running with Team Ritter again in next year’s New York City Marathon. She said training for the race and being able to help raise funds for aortic research was therapeutic for her.

“It was very much a healing process for me. It kept me focused,” she said.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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