Minnesota siblings finish NYC marathon as rare duo team

'It's easy to run when I get to be the legs for someone that's so inspiring'

Sunny Klein and her brother Joe Sommers, who uses a wheelchair
Sunny Klein and her brother Joe Sommers, who uses a wheelchair, hold medals from the New York City Marathon they ran together on Sunday.
Courtesy of Sunny Klein

Updated 4:30 p.m. Nov. 4 | Posted 5:16 p.m. Nov. 1

A pair of Minnesota siblings successfully competed in one of the world’s biggest marathon’s as one of a limited number of duo teams on Sunday.

Sunny Klein and her brother Joe Sommers, who uses a wheelchair, crossed the finish line at the New York City Marathon an hour faster than they had hoped — at just over 5 hours.

“Every few miles I would look down and he was just smiling and he was high-fiving people, and crossing the finish line was pretty emotional. Pretty emotional, especially when they put that medal around his neck. He just lit up,” Klein recalled.

Sunny Klein and her brother Joe Sommers, who uses a wheelchair
Sunny Klein and her brother Joe Sommers run the New York City Marathon.
Courtesy of Sunny Klein

A day after the competition, Klein said her brother was visiting the Statue of Liberty with family — and still wearing that medal.

“My last 2 miles were pretty rough. I was starting to hit a wall at mile 24, and I got through it just because of the encouragement of strangers. They would lean over the fence and encourage me to dig deep and they got me through,” she said. “And I was not expecting to feel so encouraged by people again. There's so much negativity right now. It was just fun to see people come together for a common, positive experience.”

To put their experience in the Big Apple into words, Klein wrote a poem Sunday night after the marathon:

This day....

This is the day my brother became a marathoner.

This is the day I feel a sense of humanity again, we were cheered for 26 straight miles by individuals of all genders, races, ethnicities and socioeconomic status.

This is the day the crowd got me through miles 24 to 26.

This is the day my dad put aside his dislike of airline travel and New York to sit in the grandstand for 2 hours waiting for us to finish.

This is the day my mom pushed her physical abilities to travel to Central Park to watch us finish.

This is the day my loving husband towed four kids around NYC to cheer us on.

This is the day my dear cousins and friends travelled to NYC to cheer us on.

This is the day I felt so much love from all over the country supporting us in this adventure.

This day, was incredible, I spent it with my brother making lifelong memories.

This this was incredible because of all of you!

Klein started running to get back into shape after the birth of her first child. She started bringing her brother along to spend time together. They’ve competed in 3Ks, 5Ks and even half marathons together, but this weekend will be their first full marathon.

“[Joe] was born with a chromosomal abnormality, so he functions [at] kind of like a second-grade level,” Klein said. “But he loves running and he just cannot get enough of it. If I go too slow, he yells at me to go faster. He's out there high-fiving everyone. He's just cheering. It's a really neat experience. And you know what? It's easy to run when I get to be the legs for someone that's so inspiring.”

Klein said the experience has brought the siblings closer together.

“Mondays have been our long run,” Klein said. “I put the kids on the bus and it's Joe and I. We hit the road and it's us hanging out most of the day trying to do these 20-mile, 24-mile races. We listen to music together. We talk about our favorite foods, where we want to go on trips. It's just been a really neat experience that I never thought I'd have with my brother.”

Klein says they might try cycling next. The new wheelchair their friends bought for the occasion can also be towed by a bike.

To hear more of Klein’s conversation with Tom Crann, click the audio player above.

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