Trail Sisters Half Marathon & 10k

September 14th • Buena Vista, CO

Grief – A Marathon – And Running Through It

Cait lives in Phoenixville, PA with her husband and rescue greyhound. When she isn’t running, you can find her nose deep in a book (thrillers, specifically!) or enjoying tacos and craft beer. She hopes to inspire fellow runners with her story and instill perseverance in those struggling to get back to the sport.

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My Mom was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer in 2021 and I’ve been grieving ever since. She passed away in October 2023, after a two-year-long battle where she tried everything and gave those “everythings” her all.

I started running again in 2022 to cope with my feelings, which scientifically is known as “anticipatory grief” (where you grieve before the actual event, in this case, death, happens).

As runners, we often say “run the mile you’re in”. It’s a reminder to be present to what you’re currently experiencing and to not get too caught up in the future and what could happen. When my mom was moved into hospice towards the end of September, I unknowingly began to run the mile I was in. Each day was a new day, and I wasn’t sure what it would bring but this {running} mindset allowed me to be fully present and enjoy the time I had left with her.

The day after my mom died, I got dressed for a run and asked my dad if it was okay to go out for a little. He replied, “Please! Go take care of yourself”. I got to the trail and told myself zero expectations. It was okay if the run sucked. It was okay if it felt good. It was okay if halfway through I stopped and just went home. Zero expectations but to just run the mile I was in. A mile or so in I saw a sign on the side of the trail that said, “It’s a long walk but our paths will cross again”, and in that moment, I knew I would be okay. I finished that run, and I’ve finished many more since. I ran a marathon one month and four days after she passed away. It was hard, harder than I anticipated. There were tears, and then there was peace and acceptance once I realized that I wasn’t running this for myself.

Why did I keep running? Well, that’s easy. Some of us get to pick our “hard”, and some of us don’t. I kept running for the ones who didn’t get to pick their hard but kept fighting anyway. I chose to keep running to honor my mom.

Grief is a lot like running. Some days are really easy. On other days, it can be the same route, the same trail you’ve run on countless times before, and for whatever reason, that day it’s really hard. That’s why I love running, and why I’m okay with my grief right now. Grief is a wave. Grief is a rollercoaster. Grief is however you want to explain it and whatever you want to equate it to. It will come unexpectedly some days and I hope it always does. I don’t want to be okay with my mom not physically being here anymore, in the same way, that I don’t want running to ever be “easy”.

But, at the same time, I think I can say that I have finally accepted my mom’s death. And, it seems fast, but there is no timeline in this lonely club, no steps to follow in a specific order to help you get over it faster. I spent two years grieving before her death happened. Accepting that there wouldn’t be more milestone moments and memories with her. And there is no doubt, no question at all, that I will miss her every day for the rest of my life, but I also have a sense of peace when I think about her now. I smile when I’m on the trail and see a cardinal. I smile even bigger when I see a dragonfly. I smile when she visits me in my dreams. I smile when I tell stories about her, and I smile even bigger when I hear people tell their stories about her. I still smile in the more intimate moments when my friend tells me she thinks about my mom every single day, how strong she was, and how amazing of a woman she was. After all, she raised four daughters and fought breast cancer twice.

I don’t come from a family of runners, and I’ve always wondered where I got the drive to do this sport. What I do know that I got from my mom, is perseverance. Grit. Endurance (survival). And being Badass.

And so, I will keep on running, when it’s easy when it’s hard. One foot in front of the other, one step at a time, the mile that I’m in.

For my mom.
For those who can’t.
For me.

If you’re grieving and you’re not where I am yet, it’s okay. It takes time and everyone is different. While you might want to rush the process and get to the part where you feel okay, unfortunately, you can’t. You must just sit in it and feel it all. My hope for you is that someday you will experience peace and be able to smile and laugh when you think of your loved one. I am sending you strength in your journey.

About the Author

Cait lives in Phoenixville, PA with her husband and rescue greyhound. When she isn’t running, you can find her nose deep in a book (thrillers, specifically!) or enjoying tacos and craft beer. She hopes to inspire fellow runners with her story and instill perseverance in those struggling to get back to the sport.

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5 Responses

  1. I so enjoyed reading your article. It was my brother’s cancer journey that got me running my first Marathon, raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society. Long distance running was the best thing I ever discovered. It got me through that very difficult time and to this day is my steady companion -on good and bad days. Your mom is watching and so proud of you, I have no doubt!
    Keep on running and many happy trails to you and everyone that might be going through similar tough times. #traillove.

  2. So beautifully said, Cait. I’m so very sorry for the loss of your mom, but I love how you’ve put into words how you are coping with it. So very proud to call you my former student ❤️❤️

  3. Yes to all of this. I’m very sorry for the loss of your mother and all she means to your heart. I appreciate your honesty and candor. I’m still grieving the loss of my Uncle (2 years older, more like a brother) 2 years ago. It’s better now, but like you said some days just hit harder. Thank you for bringing the topic of grief to the forefront to normalize the process. And keep running!!

  4. Cait……I so wish I had the skills to participate in running – the description of your journey through the loss of your mother affects me in numerous ways and gives me a vicarious outlet for my own grief. It’s not an easy road, it is different for everyone and I appreciate you sharing your most personal of situations. Your words touch me deeply – you know I love the person you are and your approach to life’s realities. Thank you for sharing! I feel better after reading your story.

  5. Thank you for this honest, moving article Cait. Like you, I started running shortly after my Mom’s terminal cancer diagnosis. Joining clinics, run groups, tracking my progress helped me feel in control of something. Running the trails gave me a space to cry, laugh, feel the feels. Even now 12 years later, the trails bring peace when I am feeling overwhelmed, riding the waves of grief. Thank you

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Sept. 14th 2024

Buena Vista, Colorado

Half-Marathon & 10k

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