Running Ultra Miles for Cancer Caregivers

Why I Ran the 24 Hr 50K+ Solo Challenge and Why I’m Running the Tip to Tip Great Florida Traverse 901 Mile Ultramarathon.

Miriam Diaz-Gilbert
5 min readJul 6, 2020


Logging miles at the virtual Tip to Tip Great Florida All The Way 901 Mile Ultra. Photo by Jon Gilbert

Running for Cancer Caregivers

In 2020, approximately 1.8 million people will be diagnosed with cancer. A 2018 ASCO (American Society of Clinical Oncology) report shows that the number of cancer caregivers in the U.S. ranges from a startling 2.8 to 6.1 million, with caregivers providing an average of almost 33 hours a week of care for their loved ones tackling cancer, whether they be friends or family.

In 2018, I became a cancer caregiver when my husband was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.

My husband endured aggressive radiation treatments, chemotherapy every other Wednesday for two years, and four surgeries. It was an overwhelming time for both of us.

Along our journey, I discovered that cancer caregivers are often forgotten by friends and families, and healthcare professionals.

As a caregiver, I experienced feelings of hopelessness, isolation, despair, and anger. I am not alone. Research shows caregivers experience these feelings and burnout.

Running as Respite and Self-care

In Respite Care: The Forgotten Caregiver Resource the author points out that respite care for caregivers is essential. Respite helps to reduce symptoms of burnout.

Because our adult children, with careers and family responsibilities of their own, live a few states away, I took care of my husband on my own. I was not able to get a break from all that caregiving entails.

Catching my breath, coming up for air, and assessing my own needs was challenging and overwhelming.

But running was my form of respite and self-care.

My husband’s cancer journey was emotionally grueling for him and for me, his caregiver. To help me cope, I also joined a helpful well-spouse support group.

And my experience as a caregiver produced a silver lining. It inspired me to create Ultra Care for Cancer Caregivers, a GoFundMe campaign to benefit cancer caregivers.

Miles and Donations at the 24 hour 50K+ Solo Challenge

I combined my 30-year experience as a runner, the last 15 years as an ultrarunner, with my experience as a cancer caregiver, and I focused on making life a little bit better for forgotten and overwhelmed caregivers.

To raise money for Ultra Care for Cancer Caregivers, I ran the Dawn to Dusk to Dawn (D3) virtual 24 hour 50K+ Solo Challenge on Mother’s Day weekend March 9 -10. I logged 102.8 miles.

By May 11, donors had contributed $500.

Creating Ultra Care for Cancer Caregivers also helped me to cope with the coronavirus pandemic and cancelled ultramarathons. It was a creative outlet for me in a time of uncertainty.

Miles and Donations at Tip to Tip

On June 1, I began logging miles at the virtual Tip to Tip Great Floria Traverse 128 miler to continue raising money. Runners have until August 31 to complete the distance.

On June 19, I was the first runner in this event to get to the finish line with 128 miles.

I wrote a blog documenting my miles and fundraising. By the end of this ultra, I have raised over $3,000.

To keep the momentum going, I moved up to the Tip to Tip Great Florida Traverse 901 mile event. Runners have until December 31 to complete the distance.

So far, I have logged over 221 miles. Only 684.72 miles to go! To date, 63 generous donors have contributed over $3,600 to Ultra Care for Cancer Caregivers.

And 6 cancer caregivers have been the recipients of the fund to provide them some respite and joy.

Runners Raising Money

Runners are known for their charity work and raising money through running.

I, along with many marathoners, ran the Philadelphia Marathon to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). I ran in memory of my good friend Denny who lost his battle with leukemia at age 45.

I ran the Marine Corps Marathon after 9/11 to raise money for LLS in honor of an 11-year-old boy. He was in remission.

Running is easy. Fundraising is much harder. But both require require endurance, patience, persistence, and pacing.

In ultrarunning, runners have a crew and pacers to encourage and support them, and to help them along those long last arduous miles to the finish.

Fundraising is a bit more challenging. Donors donate to a cause they think is worthy. In these difficult times, there are many charities and GoFundMe campaigns asking for donations.

Ultra Care for Cancer Caregivers is a worthy cause. I am grateful from the bottom of my heart for the generous donors who find supporting cancer caregivers with respite and joy a worthy and compassionate endeavor.

A fellow ultrarunner shared,

What a great cause. As an oncology nurse I recognize the need for great caregivers but I also see the strain it puts on them.

Donate and Nominate a Cancer Caregiver

With a donation of any size, big or small, I will meet the $10,000 goal to benefit cancer caregivers. Cancer caregivers, who often do not take care of themselves, will not be forgotten.

With my husband Jon. He survived stage 4 cancer, is in remission, and continues to pace me on my runs on his Elliptigo.

To learn more about the inspiration for Ultra Care for Cancer Caregivers, and to donate, visit the GoFundMe site.

Here is the first issue of the Ultra Care for Cancer Caregivers newsletter.

To nominate a cancer caregiver to be a recipient of the fund, please contact me on my website.

I am an ultrarunner and a cancer caregiver.

Follow me as I log my miles at the virtual Tip to Tip Great Florida Traverse 901 mile ultramarathon to raise money to benefit cancer caregivers.



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: