Creston Valley Thunder Cats teammates running with Sarah Miller.

Creston Valley Thunder Cats teammates running with Sarah Miller.

Mother’s memory leads to strong finish in Creston Valley’s Blue Heron Half-Marathon

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We got the call at about 7:30 in the morning, on June 16. It was my brother saying, “Mom had a stroke. She’s at the hospital. It doesn’t look good.” And it wasn’t good. She was paralyzed on the left side. For her, everything had changed. For her family, everything had changed.

If you knew her, and it seemed like almost everyone in Creston did, there was some relief in finding that her mind was unaffected, and she was as sharp and feisty as ever. For about a week and a half, she seemed to be improving every day.

Then, another phone call — my brother, three in the morning. “Mom took a turn. You need to get here fast.” Twenty-eight hours later, on June 29, she was gone.

There were many beautiful moments during her time in the hospital. What stands out for me was watching as she moved her left leg for the first time. (Imagine your whole world suddenly reduced to a hospital room, in a body that no longer works properly. And then having the strength of mind and body to bring life back into a part of you that had been unresponsive. Really — imagine it.) I said to her, “Mom, how did you do that?” She responded, “I just told myself I had to.”

I’ve thought about that a lot. I started running, back in March. Sometimes, it’s really hard, and really, I don’t have to do it. But I think of that overweight, physically inactive woman, Mom, and I’m freaking inspired. At the time she went into the hospital, I’d been thinking about training for the Blue Heron 10K Run in September. But after she moved her left leg, which was the hardest thing in the world for her to do, I told her I was going to run the Blue Heron Half-Marathon, and I wanted her to be at the finish line.

Since Mom died, I’ve been feeling a sense of community: the community of people who stepped in to help us begin to shut down Wear Withall, which Mom had been running for the last 10 years or so, after my sister and I moved on to other things. There were the sewing ladies, all the people who liked to drop in to the store to chat, the business people — so many overlapping circles of people that Mom had been involved with, and who were now supporting us, her family. I became more aware of my own community, and communities: the Wear Withall Facebook people, the people who juice, the fitness people and, now, the running community.

I ran the Blue Heron Half-Marathon on Sept. 14. And man, runners support each other. I was the last runner, so I was still heading out as everyone else headed back to the wildlife centre from the turnaround point. Most of them had words of encouragement for me, and I managed to give them a thumbs-up, or “Hey.” My husband, Dan, drove from point to point along the route, providing me with water.

The Creston Valley Thunder Cats were manning the water tables and the turnaround points, and they were especially supportive. And probably a bit relieved, because as the last runner, once I passed, they could pack things up for the day.

At about 14 kilometres into the 21-kilometre run, I heard a truck driving slowly behind me, and knew that it was the Thunder Cats from the furthest water station, escorting me. With about 5.5 kilometres to go, I heard footsteps and voices. Some of them had gotten out of the vehicle, and were running with me. They stayed beside me until the end of the race.

Well, until almost the end of the race. A few metres from the end, I heard one of them say, “OK, boys, drop back,” and another one softly called to me, “Finish strong.”

After all of that running, I didn’t feel like I could finish strong, but, “I just told myself I had to.”

So, I guess Mom was with me at the finish line after all.

—BY SARAH MILLER