More Than Marathons for One Adventist Health Operator

July 21, 2017 | C.J. Anderson

Vicki Classen, telephone operator for Adventist Health in Portland, Ore., just completed her 100th marathon. This 30-year quest has transformed her health and influenced her family, friends and co-workers.

Classen began running with her husband, Gary, in 1987. “We were inspired by watching the Portland Marathon and decided we wanted to do it for ourselves,” she explains. Starting with just 1-mile runs, they worked their way up to marathon distance. Gary completed 72 marathons before he passed away in 2012. Classen has carried on Gary’s goal of completing 100 marathons, joined by her daughter, Emillie Niblack, customer care associate.

As the goal got closer this mother-daughter duo stepped up their efforts. Since March Classen and Niblack have completed a marathon every two weeks. Classen's 99th race was the Foot Traffic Flat Marathon on July 4. Then she logged her 100th race on July 15 at the Olympia Lakefair Marathon.

Training for marathons takes time, discipline and desire. For Classen and Niblack, that time is a precious gift. Their weekly runs and workouts are spent talking and praying together.

A Culture of Wellness at Work

Both Classen and Niblack say the classes and resources offered through Adventist Health’s LivingWell program have helped them understand the value of healthier food choices. Applying this knowledge has helped the already-fit pair achieve personal wellness goals.  

“The LivingWell program has helped me improve my health by changing how I eat,” says Classen. “Because of classes and challenges that have been offered at work I’ve moved to a diet with more whole, plant-based foods. I used to be on medication for my blood pressure, but by eating differently I no longer need it.”

She adds, “Being part of an organization that emphasizes wellness means so much to me.”

“It’s a lot of small things,” Niblack observes. “From signs encouraging us to take the stairs to wellness challenges that give us the opportunity to explore different aspects of our health. A fruit and veggie challenge jump-started improvements to the way I was eating and helped me lower my cholesterol by 22 points.”

Classen and Niblack were featured on Adventist Health’s LivingWell Podcast in 2015. Visit to check out a rerelease of this episode.