Running in Sickness and in Health

As my husband tackles cancer, my running has a new purpose.

Miriam Diaz-Gilbert
4 min readNov 7, 2019
Photo by alan gore on Unsplash

“That’s what is incredible about human beings, is the choice to keep going.” ~Jack Antonoff

Runners run for many reasons. I began to run to help cope with a broken heart after a break-up during my sophomore year of college.

With every step, through sweat and tears, I began to heal.

I kept running recreationally. Years later, I started running road races — more than 25 marathons, half marathons, and 5Ks.

I also got married and gave birth to my daughter Jonna and my son Sebastian.

Running kept me physically fit and healthy. I ran through the fourth month of each pregnancy.

I ran my first 5K race when my daughter was two, and my first half marathon when my son was six months old.

Running also helped me survive the trauma of workplace bullying and harassment. To help me cope, I tackled my first 50-mile ultramarathon. That was 14 years ago.

Running has always been my medicine.

It saved me after a laparoscopic hysterectomy that went haywire and left me with sepsis.

My strong physical condition helped me endure three more major abdominal surgeries in ten weeks, a 26-day hospital stay, Cipro toxicity, and a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis.

Running helped me to endure more workplace bullying and harassment after I returned from a six-month medical leave, and it helped me when I lost my job.

Twenty-one ultramarathons later and six years after surviving my medical nightmare, running came to my rescue again when my husband was diagnosed with rectal cancer that metastasized to his left lung.

Running has helped me with becoming a cancer caregiver.

Jon has stayed with me as I’ve continued to run. He’s been pacing me and crewing me since I began running ultramarathons 14 years ago.

Now he can’t pace me at 100-mile ultramarathons, so I stick to 50-mile, 50K and 24-hour ultra events close to home. My next ultramarathon — my 25th ultra and my seventh 24-hour ultra — is on a 400-meter track not far from home.

Jon won’t need to pace me or worry about me taking a tumble in the trails. I’ll be in plain sight on the track.

He will sleep in our tent in the dead of night while I chug alongside fellow ultra runners.

Running has a new meaning — a new purpose for me and for us.

We now pace each other in the world of cancer care and treatment.

As an ultra runner, I have endured falls and bloody injuries. I have endured loss of cognitive functioning and hallucinations.

Jon’s body has endured radiation and will endure life-long chemotherapy. His hair is starting to fall out. Jon is running an ultramarathon of a different kind.

We’ll continue to run, walk, and move together in sickness and in health.

Now I train and run to be strong for Jon.

Running will help me to be a healthy caregiver. An unhealthy caregiver is good to no one.

Jon keeps moving on his ElliptiGO and joins me on my short training runs when he can.

Movement is so important for mind, body, spirit and all-around health.

In a couple of weeks, I will celebrate my 60th birthday. I hope to run 60 birthday miles to celebrate 60 years and 60 blessings.

The aid station will be our home. Jon will be there to feed me and encourage me to keep going. And he’ll pace me on his ElliptiGO for a few laps if he can.

We met 38 years ago in a college history class, and we have been at each other’s side ever since.

As he tackles his cancer, I remain by his side and pace him along his journey to healing.

Running has been good to us. Running continues to be part of our journey — in sickness and in health.

This story was originally published in Chicken Soup for the Soul — Running for Good, June 2019. ©Miriam Diaz-Gilbert

Update: I celebrated my 60th birthday with 60 miles for Jon’s healing. Here’s my story: 60 Miles for My Husband’s Healing and My 60th Birthday.

Miriam Diaz-Gilbert (aka Miriam Gilbert) has been running over 30 years. I am training for my 27th ultramarathon — the 2019 Across the Years 48 hour ultra. I invite you to also read Life as a Cancer Caregiver. Thank you for sharing these stories.



Miriam Diaz-Gilbert

My debut memoir Come What May, I Want to Run: A Memoir of the Saving Grace of Ultrarunning in Overwhelming Times is published. Website: