21 Days and Pittsburgh Will Never be the Same

I don’t even know where to start. I can’t even believe I am writing this. I don’t even know if I can write the words, but I am hoping to find some comfort in doing one of the things I love.

My mother, Darlene, passed away suddenly on Thursday afternoon. She is gone – ripped out of my life – of all of our lives – entirely too soon. What do you even say?

Mom, Mollie & Me

She was training for her first Quarter Marathon on May 07, my sister is running her first half the same day, and I am running the Pittsburgh full, my fist too, a week later. The three of us were going to Walt Disney World in Orlando to celebrate – her favorite place – a few days after Pittsburgh. Running brought the three of us closer than I thought possible. It changed our lives – dramatically. My mom ran her first 5K in August of last year after training with the No Boundaries program. Her whole life she wanted to be a runner – and she was. She was a firm believer and would tell everyone John Bingham’s words, “The miracle isn’t that I finished.  The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” The Quarter was her big race, she was ready.

She was so excited with the way her life was going this past year. She was healthy and made changes in her life that not many people can.

Mom’s First 5K 2011

The sun was shining when she went to the park Thursday afternoon to run 4.5 miles. She was wearing her No Boundaries training shirt (her favorite) and her new shoes. She had her Garmin, her water bottles, and her iPod. She completed her run at a 13:30 pace. I know she would have been ecstatic. If she had the time, I knowshe would have sent me a text. She was hoping to run with me and the Lucky 13’s with MIT next session and train for a half, but thought she was too slow. She wasn’t.

Something happened, maybe with her heart, – on her cool-down walk, which she did without fail – and she didn’t make it. Someone started CPR after they saw her fall, but she was gone instantly. We never got to say goodbye. She would say she died doing the one thing she loved the most. We will bury her in her running shoes and socks that she was wearing. She would love it. Tell them in Heaven that you’re a runner, Mom, when they ask about the shoes. You earned it. 

Pittsburgh will never be the same for me. She was so excited for me to run this race; it breaks my heart that she is gone. It breaks my heart that I won’t see her at the finish line. It breaks my heart that SHE is the one that doesn’t get to go. This all seems so unfair. 

She just emailed me about it on Wednesday:

I wanted to send you a note to see what your plans are for your run Saturday, what it is your distance? I was planning on coming over to run another 6.55. Once I know your plans I can then time mine to try and meet you again like I did a few weeks ago. Let me know what your thoughts are.
Also, let us know when packet pick-up is for Pittsburgh then we can make plans for leaving Columbus. Is Michael going?  Wow, your race is not far off. We have all the faith in the world in you that you will complete this goal that you have had for so long. You will succeed!!!!  
Love you guys and the puppies! 
What kind of potatoes for Sunday,   home-made mashed or cheesy ones? Love you angel! Talk to you soon!
Love, Mom

I asked her to make the cheesy ones.

21 Days and counting…During the Pittsburgh Marathon on May 15th, I will be thinking of:

Mile 8: Grace & Sadie 

My puppies! I love animals and if I must say, these are two of my favorites. They make me smile and laugh and their unconditional love is sometimes all I need to get through a long or rough day. If I could carry them in Pittsburgh (okay, maybe not carry!) I would!

Mile 9: This is one day!

Whatever happens in Pittsburgh – good or bad – it is one day of my life. It is one day and it is only one day. Pittsburgh is a day I will always cherish – especially now that my mother is gone. And I will make this day the BEST I can, but at the same time remember it is only one day and there will be other races. I have one day to make the most of and I have one day to create a lasting memory, regardless of how well or not-well I run.

Mile 10: GRANDMA PHYTHYON

My grandmother on my father’s side passed away at the beginning of last year. I feel like I didn’t know her very well as a child, but got to know her better as an adult. She was always proud of me and always said she loved me. She was at my wedding in 2007, which is something I will always treasure. She would say, “WHAT!? You’re RUNNING HOW FAR?!” and then she would ask why!

Mile 11: CHRISSY

Chrissy is THE Original Running Partner and my dear friend and coworker. There will be no other quite like her. We trained with MIT together for our first half marathon in August 2009. It was awesome – have you ever found the perfect running partner? If you have, you know what I mean. We went from knowing next to nothing about one another to finding out EVERYTHING about one another on our runs. I literally walked into work one day and said, “I’m going to run a marathon.” Chrissy said, “Okay, I’ll do it with you.” I was thinking, “Great, now I have to run it!” We showed up for the first group run of the season and the full marathoners were running something like 7 miles – the half runners were running 2. We quickly decided to run a half! At Mile 11 in the our first race, I told Chrissy I was done and was going to sit down on the curb and wait for someone to come get me. She said I better keep running because she didn’t know who would come pick us up – it for sure wouldn’t be her husband, Chad. I kept running. Chrissy gets me through Mile 11 a lot even though we aren’t training together anymore. 

Mile 12: Blogland Friends

This means YOU! I am so grateful for the running AND blogging community I have found online. You guys are amazing and although I don’t know most of you in person, I consider you my friends. Sometimes a word of advice, encouragement or understanding will come through on my blog at just the write moment to remind me I am never alone. I wish I could take you all to Pittsburgh and I will, in my heart. Writing is something I have always enjoyed but I never decided to go “public” with it until last year. I am so glad I made that decision. Thank you, friends, for the little things you do everyday to keep me running strong!

Mile 13: MIT LUCKY 13’s

Ah. What can I say about you guys? You ALL – each and everyone of you – mean so much to me. I am so thankful that Duane asked me to help coach with him – it has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. Your support, encouragement, excitement, friendship, successes and hard times have carried me through many a Saturday morning run. Coaching you guys this session has been an unbelievable experience for me and words cannot express how grateful I am for each and every one of you. I am so excited for your Half coming up and I can’t wait to cheer you guys on at the Finish Line. I wish I could take you all to Pittsburgh too – wouldn’t we have fun? Although Mile 13 is “officially” dedicated to my runners, I wouldn’t be where I am today without the MIT training program and all of the people and coaches I have run with there. Thank you MIT for changing my life “one mile at a time.” 

HALF: Brain in the Game

At the halfway point, I must remember to get my brain in the game. NO NEGATIVE THOUGHTS! This training season has really taught me a lot about the power of positive thinking and how much it can empower me to succeed! If at halfway I can keep my brain on a positive track to finishing strong, I know the last 13 miles will fly by. No matter how good I am feeling, if my mind says we’re done, we in fact are. I will not let this happen on race day!

Until the next mile marker,

 

Comments

  1. I love you Sara! It hurts my heart that your mom can’t physically be at the finish line for you in Pittsburgh. I have no doubt that she will be cheering you on nonetheless! HUGS!

  2. I really sorry to hear this Sara. I know you are a strong person so all I can say is be strong. There is no explanation for the things that happen just remember that your mom will be there with you on every run and at every race even if you can’t see her. You both will be in my thoughts and prayers and I will remember your strength throughout my journey of running.

  3. Sara, your mom was so obviously proud of you and I know she will be cheering you on in Pittsburgh. I didn’t get a chance to know her, but the other women all talk about how wonderful she was. You and your mom have been such an inspiration to me all through MIT. I’m sending you lots of e-love and hugs. Let’s definitely go for that run together soon. I sent you my number on Facebook, so feel free to use it and know I’ll be thinking about you as are the rest of the Maybe Not Quite so Lucky 13’s.

  4. Sara I am so sorry for your loss. What a neat thing that you have such a sweet “normal” note from her just the day before. You’ll be in my prayers!

  5. I’m so sorry for your loss. Your Mom will be with you every step of the way. Prayers for your family during this time.

  6. Sara, I am so very sorry for your loss. I will keep your family in my thoughts & prayers. I know she will be looking down on you as your run Pittsburgh.

    ((HUGS))

    Kim

  7. Carla Clark says:

    I am so sorry to hear about your mom. She will be with you as you continue your journey. She will continue to be very proud of you. Prayer and hugs for you and your family.

  8. So sorry to read about your mom. It is always tough when something like this happens suddenly & the ones we love get ripped out of our lives. My thoughts and prayers are with you, and I’m sure your mom will be with you to push you to the finish of your first marathon.

  9. So sorry for your loss. Thoughts and prayers for you and your family. I’m sure you’re mom will be with you every step to the finish in Pittsburgh.

  10. Sitting here with tears streaming down my face. Your mom was an amazing woman who brightened my day when we’d cross each other running–always a smile and a kind word of support. She remains an inspiration to me and many other runners who were better for having known her. We’re all pulling for you, Sara, and will be cheering you on in Pittsburgh!! Love you!

  11. Wow..I am so sorry to hear about your loss. Your mom sounds like she was an incredible and supportive woman. I think it’s awesome you guys are going to keep her socks/running shoes on her. Many many hugs and prayers are being sent your way! Just know that she will be with you as you cross the finish line of your Marathon – she will be with you every step of the way!

  12. I’m so sorry about the loss of your mom! The support and encouragement you two gave to each other was incredible. She accomplished something great with your help. She’ll continue to be there with you for all of your future accomplishments.

  13. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. My heart was literally breaking as I read your post but know that there are a lot of people out there thinking & praying for your family. Running & finishing your 1st marathon in Pittsburgh is going to have so much more meaning now, put your heart & soul into these next few weeks of training! 🙂

  14. So sorry for your loss, Sara.. I know you will use her words as strength for you to move forward. I cannot imagine what you are going through, but please know that your family is in my prayers.

  15. Sara–I hate this for you. I lost my Mom in 2007, I remember how helpless and lost I felt. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. If there is anything I can do, please let me know. {I know everyone says that}. When I heard this on Friday, I shed a tear for you, then some for me. I wish you peace my friend.

  16. Christina says:

    That’s awful. Your post brought me to tears. I wish I could drive up there and give you a big hug! I’m running a half next Sunday, and I’m going to dedicate it to your mom. I’m going to push and PR, and it’ll be for her. God, I’m crying again just typing this. I can tell your mom was an amazing woman. Letting her go in her running shoes is a great idea. You and your family will be in my thoughts.

  17. I’m speechless. I really cannot offer any words besides I am so sorry..

    I will be praying for you and following you on May 15th.

  18. Sara, My heart is breaking for you. Know that all of us in MIT are praying for you. I hope you can find some peace in the next few weeks – I know that running will help. I know your mom is with you every step of the way.

  19. Sara – I am so sorry for your loss and what a shock it must have been to you to lose your mother so suddenly and unexpectedly. I know there is nothing anyone can say to make it better, but know that there are tons of people out here who are thinking of you and praying for you and your family! Your mom will definitely be with you while you run your first marathon and I’ll be thinking of you too!

  20. Oh my goodness! I’m so so sorry for your loss.

  21. Sara I am so sorry to hear about your loss! My heart goes out to you. I hope that you can find solace out there, during those 26.2 miles. And she will be at the finish line…she will be there! And maybe, maybe you can come up with something special when you order your new Allied Medal Display. I stopped by to let you know that you won my giveaway…
    You are in my thoughts and prayers, Sara!

  22. Your post brought me to tears. I am so sorry for your loss. Reading the email about the potatoes reminds me of my own momma. Always taking care of people and making sure everything goes as planned.

  23. I am so very and truly sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine what you’re going through, but want you to know that I’m thinking and praying for you.

  24. So sorry to hear about your Mom, Sara. I know she will be so proud of your accomplishment in the race in a couple of weeks. Thinking of you…

  25. So sorry to hear about your Mom, Sara. I know she will be so proud of your accomplishment in the race in a couple of weeks. Thinking of you…

  26. Sara, My heart is breaking for you. Know that all of us in MIT are praying for you. I hope you can find some peace in the next few weeks – I know that running will help. I know your mom is with you every step of the way.

  27. Your post brought me to tears. I am so sorry for your loss. Reading the email about the potatoes reminds me of my own momma. Always taking care of people and making sure everything goes as planned.

  28. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. My heart was literally breaking as I read your post but know that there are a lot of people out there thinking & praying for your family. Running & finishing your 1st marathon in Pittsburgh is going to have so much more meaning now, put your heart & soul into these next few weeks of training! 🙂

  29. Carla Clark says:

    I am so sorry to hear about your mom. She will be with you as you continue your journey. She will continue to be very proud of you. Prayer and hugs for you and your family.

  30. Just found your website. So glad you’re raising awareness about DVT/PE–the condition that stole my father from me in 2010. He had no risk factor other than being over the age of 60–fit and in the prime of his life. His first symptom? Death. I’m still coming to grips with the fact that he is gone.

    Anyway, good work–so inspired by and thankful for people like you.

    • Sara- Words to Run By Blog says:

      Hi Nicole. Thank you so much for stopping by and for sharing about your father. I am so sorry to hear of your loss. As you may have read, I lost my mother in 2011 and I still can’t believe that happened either. It is really tough, and I understand what you are going through. I am reminded through stories such as yours that I am very lucky to be alive and am sad for those people who have been lost like your father. It is why I stared talking about blood clots so I could let others know how serious and prevalent it really is. Best to you and thank you so much for your kind words. Take care.

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