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The Most Important Mile of my Life: Kristin Cooper

Kristin with her parents in 2005, after her first half-marathon.
Kristin with her parents in 2005, after her first half-marathon.

My most important mile didn’t happen during a marathon or a particularly grueling training run; it happened on a Tuesday in November, 2005. I was sitting in a chair in critical care watching my mom’s chest rise and fall, perfectly timed to the hum of the ventilator.  My mom was fighting for her life after a “routine” surgery went horribly wrong. As insane as it was, I was handling it: living at the hospital, talking to doctors, and making sure my dad and brother ate three meals a day. I was stoic and I was suffocating.

That day, I stood up and mumbled something about needing air. I walked straight out of the hospital and started running.  No running clothes, no ipod, no watch. It didn’t matter. I just needed to get out. The hospital was in my hometown so I knew the area and found myself charging toward the biggest hill around. My heart was pumping, quads burning, lungs gasping as I sprinted toward that hill.

It wasn’t my usual steady-paced run. It was manic. It was as if I could suddenly feel all of the fear and pain that I had been holding in. Tears streamed down my cheeks blurring my vision but I didn’t care. I made it to the top of the hill and just screamed and cried. I was spent, both emotionally and physically. I crumpled to the ground and just cried, feeling broken. After a time, I picked myself up and looming there on the horizon was the hospital and I knew that it was time to go back.

As I ran back I felt better; I didn’t feel more positive about what my mom’s condition but I felt prepared for what may lay ahead. That run forced me to unclench and breathe so that I could face doctors, those machines, and the possibility of losing my mom.

Kristin's mom, who saw her daughter get married and have one boy before succumbing to cancer in 2010. "The third anniversary of her death was Sunday," says Kristin, "so I have been spending a lot of time thinking about her and the strange roads life takes you on."
Kristin's mom, who saw her daughter get married and have one boy before succumbing to cancer in 2010. "The third anniversary of her death was Sunday," says Kristin, "so I have been spending a lot of time thinking about her and the strange roads life takes you on."

Seven months later, after relearning how to breathe, eat and walk, my mom left the hospital.Over that time, I snuck out of the hospital frequently to run. Running made me step back from the proverbial ledge, it calmed my fraying nerves. Running was the only time that I could just be me:  in whatever state I was in, instead of the strong or level-headed version that I showed to everyone else.

It was through those many miles that I really felt like I became a runner, but I will always remember that it was that frenetic run on a Tuesday that saved me.

What was (or will be) the most important mile of your life? We want to know.

We’re going to make this an ongoing feature on the website (and potentially include some important miles in our yet-to-be-named third book, out in spring of 2015). Best way to submit is to email us your story with a picture: runmother {at} gmail {dot} com with “Most Important Mile” in the subject line. Please try to keep your mile stories under 300 words. Thank you!

7 responses to “The Most Important Mile of my Life: Kristin Cooper

  1. Ok, I shouldn’t read these over lunch at work…tearing up a bit. I had just started running in 2006 when we found out that my mom was in the end stages of cancer. Like you, I can clearly remember keeping it all together at the hospital and around family and then going for a run and ending up in a pool tears. Your post is beautifully written brings me back to those days.

  2. Like you, Kristin, I lost my beloved mother to cancer. Those miles do seem to help and I hope they continue to do so for you. Thanks for sharing your story. I know your mom would be proud and touched.

  3. Wow. Reading this gave me chills.. i would love to read more from you. Another great reason why some of us run. It’s close to free therapy. 🙂

  4. This gave me the chills – what a powerful story. Thank you for sharing – and I’m so sorry for the loss of your mother. Sounds like she was a fighter like her daughter.

  5. our house burnt down a year and a half ago, when the fire was out the officials told us to go into the house and get any valuables. we grabbed our running shoes. luckily they were low to the ground and only blackish but good for what we needed. Hubby and I had just purchased them so we were not throwing them out. They became a symbol for us. As we made our way through rebuilding, insurance stuff and keeping it together with our new normal, we continued running and racing. I could feel it in my body. the stress that had collected. Were those great runs? no~! but they were runs that helpled us through the grieving process. We lost everything that day in material goods (including a family pet) but our family is safe and we are moving forward. Running was the glue that helped us hold it together.

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