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11 months after heart surgery, Vogel running in half marathon

Lindsey Vogel, of Jamestown, will run in her first half marathon during the Fargo Marathon Saturday. Vogel is less than a year removed from having a pulmonary valve replaced in her heart. Family members plan to support her along the half-marathon route. (Photo courtesy / Lindsey Vogel)

Lindsey Vogel will run the half marathon in Saturday’s Fargo Marathon, following in the footsteps of her father and other family members who ran it last year.

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But Vogel will be different from most other runners in the event, as 11 months ago she had a pulmonary valve in her heart replaced.

Vogel, who moved back to Jamestown from Grand Forks in January to work with her father, Paul Witthauer, at Witthauer Investment & Insurance, has had problems with her heart since she was born.

“Most babies are born with holes in their hearts, mine just never healed,” she said.

Her heart

Vogel had three surgeries on her heart between age 4 and just before she turned 6 to close the holes and to address having an enlarged heart as well. The holes in her heart are called atrial septal defect and ventricular septal defect. The terms indicate where the holes were in her heart, the upper chambers and ventricles, according to the website The general term for an enlarged heart is cardiomegaly.

After that series of surgeries, Vogel said her heart was repaired as much as it could be, and she could play in sports including hockey, soccer and golf.

“As a little kid I played in every sport Jamestown Parks and Recreation offered,” Vogel said.

Vogel had physical limits. She had to watch herself, recognize when she was reaching those boundaries and pull back.

“I couldn’t go (play or practice) as long as some of the kids, I couldn’t always keep up,” Vogel said. “That was hard because I was a competitive kid, and I would get frustrated.”

Vogel had as normal life of a life as she could. Her friends understood that there were times when she wouldn’t be able to run or play sports as fast or as hard as they. At 15 her pulmonary valve showed signs of damage and had to be replaced. She said given her heart’s condition, this is a procedure she will have to go through about every 12 years for the rest of her life.

Vogel’s mom, Lynette Witthauer, said it was tough sometimes seeing how much her daughter went through with the surgeries. But, she was glad Vogel was as active as she was and is.

“Through her sports and being active she stayed healthy,” Witthauer said.


Vogel knew she would be facing another pulmonary valve replacement surgery in June 2013. Her dad, aunt and uncle had all signed up to do the half marathon at the Fargo Marathon that same year. She knew she didn’t have the stamina to do the half marathon then, so she and her mother signed up for the Friday 5k, which is held on the Friday afternoon before the marathon.

Vogel said she has always liked long-distance running. She had friends when she was in Jamestown High School who ran cross-country and long-distance events on the track team.

Running the Friday 5k was a good first step, Vogel said.

“I knew running the 5k with mom would be good. When I would get tired and had to walk, she would slow down to a jog and let me catch my breath, then we would continue on,” she said.

Vogel’s second pulmonary valve replacement surgery went well. Her cardiologist gave her the OK to start jogging, slowly, about two months after the surgery. She started with light training through the fall and winter.

When she started running in September 2013, Vogel said she had to pull back on her competitive edge. When she started running her husband, Steve, would join her. Vogel would set her own pace, and her husband would match it, then pull ahead of her, sometimes jogging backward next to her.

“That would make me mad,” she said. “I appreciated he wanted to do this with me, so I told him just to run at his own pace and I would see him at the end of the run.”

Witthauer said she had planned to run the half marathon with Vogel, but wasn’t able to get in enough miles to run the distance.

Half marathon

Vogel said she started her formal training for the half marathon in January. The half marathon is 13.1 miles. She runs four days each week, with Sundays being the day she runs the longest distances. Vogel put herself on a 16-week schedule, generally running between 12 and 13 miles a week, divided over four days.

“The most I ran on one Sunday was 13 miles,” she said. “Today (Sunday) I ran four miles.”

As she has gotten older Vogel said she has learned what her body can and can’t do, and has changed her eating habits.

“I definitely am eating more healthy than when I was a teen, more green vegetables and lean protein,” she said. “I’m more focused on what I put into my body.”

Vogel said she is looking forward to the start of the half marathon at 8 a.m. Saturday in Fargo. While she won’t have any family members running with her.

Witthauer said many members of Vogel’s family will be along the route cheering her on.

“Oh, we’ll be following as closely as we can,” she said.

Vogel said she isn’t worried about finishing and is looking forward to the race.

“I think I’ll do just fine,” she said.

Sun reporter Chris Olson can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at

Chris Olson

Hometown: Traverse City, MI College: Northwestern Michigan College and Michigan State University

(701) 952-8454