No Matter What Setback or Suffering Comes My Way, I Work With It and Just Run

From adversity comes strength.

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Running in White Sands National Park. Photo by Jon Gilbert

My running story began in college, not as an athlete, but with a broken heart after a breakup. To cope, I just ran around campus day or night.

Running became my friend, my medicine.

I ran recreationally. I ran through the first semester of my pregnancies. After giving birth, I continued to run. I never stopped running.

Forty years after I began running to heal a broken heart, I finished my 27th ultramarathon — the Across the Years 48 hour event January 2020.

How did this happen?

Flashback to 1989 when it all started with a 5K charity run. Then it
morphed into a slew of more 5Ks and 10Ks, several half-marathons, and 10

This lead to 50 milers, 100 milers, 24-hour ultras, and to the 2019
A Race for the Ages, where runners run as many hours as their age, and to the Across the Years 48 hour ultra.

Why do I continue to put in the training miles, to endure blisters and stinging body chafing, fallen toenails, tripping over pesky trail tree roots, and taking a tumble or two?

Why do I continue to endure loss of cognitive functioning, sleep deprivation, and hallucinations?

Yes, I have hallucinated! After finishing the 2017 Wildcat 100, I saw people — a mom, a dad, and a son — in my food.

They were alive and moving in my food. I refused to eat. My husband could not convince me that what was in my food were pieces of grilled chicken and not people.

What the self-imposed beating of mind and body has endured is nothing
compared to the trauma it suffered almost seven years ago when a life-threatening surgical error left me with four compromised organs and three more abdominal surgeries in a ten week period.

The last surgery was to repair my transected left ureter. My abdomen was swimming with urine and sepsis was setting in.

Thank God for all my years of running. Running kept me physically
fit, gave me a strong immune system, and saved my life during my medical

I was in top physical shape when I went in for a scheduled hysterectomy to remove massive fibroids seven years ago, and three days after placing third female in my first 24-hour road ultra — the 2012 Around Around the Lake.

The doctors were amazed I was not more critically ill or dead.

The following year I went back to the same 24-hour ultra after also
suffering toxicity from the antibiotic Cipro during my medical nightmare, and
then diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

Ultrarunning had saved my life and now ultrarunning would continue to heal me. I stopped running in scorching heat and humidity after 18 hours. I was happy to place 6th female.

This time the ultra was part of my healing journey and a prayer of gratitude.

Three years prior to my medical nightmare, I was diagnosed with severe B12 deficiency due to myelopathy of the spinal cord. My body does not naturally produce enough B12.

I was unable to walk normally and I could not run. I was finally properly diagnosed and treated. I got my running legs back.

I continued to train and run ultras. I even showed up at a winter
100-miler with my left arm in a sling and my right hand armed with a snowshoe pole.

The previous month I fell shoveling snow on our driveway and fractured my left humerus.

While it would not be wise to tackle a 100 miler, I simply showed up to walk one 10-mile loop in mud and some ice and snow patches very gingery, and to pick up my swag.

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At the start of the 2014 NJ 100 mile trail ultra. Photo by Jon Gilbert.

Almost losing my life, B12 deficiency, and a broken arm did not stop me from running, and neither did painful plantar fasciitis.

Pain is relative.

If I can scream at the top of my lungs while enduring joyful pain during natural childbirth twice, the pain of consecutive abdominal surgeries, a fractured left humerus, and painful plantar fasciitis is a walk in the park.

I found the best sports medicine chiropractor and physical therapist. I was disciplined with the exercises and healed my PF.

I went on to finish 3 ultras in five months.

I placed third in my age group in a 50-mile trail ultra; set a PR in a 50 mile road ultra, and placed 3rd in my age group and 5th overall female in a 24 hour ultra.

I would not be able to tackle my races, from 5Ks to ultramarathons, without the unconditional love and support of my children and husband — my crew and pacers.

My children are now adults and I’m a grandmother.

I still run but now I run not only to stay healthy and fit but also,
to run for my husband’s healing.

In early 2018, he was diagnosed with stage 4 rectal cancer that metastasized to his right lung.

During the challenge of aggressive radiation, bimonthly chemotherapy,
and recovering from four major surgeries, Jon has been by my side at six

Because he cannot pace me yet, I stick to 50 milers, 24-hour and 48 ultras,
and other timed ultras that take place on a track or short loop.

He continues to feed me, duct tape my feet, drain my blisters, change my socks, help me change clothes, and make sure I drink our home brewed ginger when I feel nauseated at about mile 60.

Since his diagnosis, my running has taken on a new meaning, a new
purpose. I have dedicated every training run, and ultra to his healing.

Last year, I ran 60 miles on a one-mile loop in my in daughter’s neighborhood to celebrate my 60th birthday, and as a healing run for Jon.

Running has also become my cancer caregiver self-care. And on his ElliptiGo, Jon continues to join me on my training runs. We stay strong together.

Our time at the Across the Years 48 hour ultra was a celebratory
time. We had much to celebrate. Jon’s last scan showed no evidence of cancer.

And for that, we are grateful.

And I turned 61 years young while running a one-mile loop and logging 101.63 miles at Across the Years. This ultra was another prayerful run of gratitude and for Jon’s continued healing.

No matter what adversity, obstacle, setback, or suffering comes my
way, I work with it and just run to stay physically and mentally strong. My
faith and prayers during runs keeps me spiritually strong.

From adversity comes strength.

And with that strength I continue to put one foot in front of the other and run ultramarathons, though much slower but always steady, with meaning, purpose, and gratitude.

Miriam Diaz-Gilbert (aka Miriam Gilbert) is a published author, ultrarunner, adjunct professor, and cancer caregiver. I am training for a marathon, a 24 hour track ultra, and a 100K urban ultra. Thank you for reading and sharing my story. Follow me on Twitter and Facebook.


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