“It went better than I could have ever imagined, the last few miles were tough, but everything else people did to make it amazing was pretty great,” Kendra Miller of Dickinson said about running a marathon in Dickinson in honor of her mother and aunt who died of Leukemia.
The Boston Marathon is one of the most highly known and respected marathons in the country, if not worldwide. However, unlike other marathons, the Boston Marathon forces runners to reach a qualifying time based on their age to partake in the run or be selected as a special entrant for a cause. The marathon only selects a few, less than a thousand per year, to run in the race without qualifying.
Local runner Kendra Miller was one such special cause entrant. She was going to run her first ever marathon-ever, at the Boston Marathon, for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society after losing an aunt and mother to the disease.
Kendra Miller was always athletic. She always loved to play sports and was affiliated with sports all throughout high school. After she became a mom, she learned of the beauty and intricacies of running. All roads had led her to Boston, but In April the event was postponed due to coronavirus. Miller was sad, but her motivation was still on track because the marathon was never about her.
“That was my first ever marathon, and probably my last,” Miller said.
In 2014, Miller joined the Leukemia Lymphoma Society, after losing an aunt to leukemia and decided to run and raise money, and awareness, for her aunt. But a year later, tragedy struck Miller when her mother, Cindy, was diagnosed with leukemia nearly exactly a year after Miller’s aunt died.
Along with getting the news that she was going to be able to partake in the most popular marathon in the world, she was going to have to fundraise more money than she ever had to help support the trip.
“At first I was really nervous,” Miller said. “To think about running that far and training that much and I knew fundraising wise … I think they wanted you to raise $18,000 at least for the leukemia lymphoma society. I knew this was going to be the most I’ve ever fundraised and it was going to be the most that I had ever ran.”
For Miller, the challenge was more than vanity for personal accolades or the glory. In fact, it was more than for the organization and cause. To her, it was a way to connect with the pain and struggle of her mother, who died in January 2019 after a second battle of leukemia, and those suffering and bring awareness to their plight.
“I knew after that, my next fundraising event for the leukemia lymphoma society was going to be something bigger and more different than just my regular half marathon that I’ve run,” Miller said.
Miller secretly applied for the Boston Marathon, not knowing what would come out of it. Until she was accepted in October. From there, everything went into preparation for the 26.2 mile run.
“I knew I had to do it, this was going to be something for my mom,” she said.
Then the cancellation.
It was with this decision by event organizers that Miller made the decision that she was going to run the marathon in her hometown of Dickinson, with her family, friends able to witness, and her mother’s presence being felt even stronger.
On the day of the race, Dickinson’s weather turned cold and rainy, but Miller was warm and fired up for the run. Everything was leading up to this moment, she was ready. From right outside her house, she began to pace herself and began the fabled 26.2 mile journey.
Throughout the streets of Dickinson, Miller ran keeping a steady pace and staying calm and motivated. As seen in marathons, Millers’ family and friends gathered to support her in different spots of her journey, always pushing forward. Other runners paid respect and support to Miller by even joining her in her run throughout her journey. After a while, some would leave, but more would join.
As with every runner that takes on the challenge of the marathon, Miller hit and fatigue area mid-way through, but never waivered. Her body was getting tired, but her main goal of paying tribute to her mother got stronger with each step she took. Even putting her inside the route.
“About at mile 21, I started writing ‘mom’ with the streets,” Miller said. “If you look at my route on a sheet of paper, you’d be able to read ‘mom’ right in the route.”
Four hours later, near the end of the race, with nearly eight other runners alongside her, Miller embraced the final stretch, with her husband and son joining her to run the final few miles to their house. Streamers, balloons, and an actual finish line were all present, along with cheers of encouragement getting louder and louder the closer Miller got to home.
At the end of the race, Miller’s moms’ sisters, father, friends and neighbors were all present to celebrate the end of such an emotional accomplishment.
“Right as I was coming through the finish … I remember turning to my husband welling up with tears, and I just said, ‘I did it,’ she said. “It’s just been a long road of emotions and time and there was the finish line … it was a once in a lifetime feeling, that’s for sure.”
Tears poured down the faces of those in attendance like the raindrops coming down from the sky. Miller believes there was a reason for that.
“The rain was just my mom’s tears of joy from Heaven,” Miller said. “She was there.”
Along with completing the race, Miller went well-beyond the donation count needed, ending with a total of $25,000 being given to the leukemia lymphoma society.
“It leaves me speechless that so many people cared to donate to raise me up to that level,” she said.
Miller will receive the medal, shirt and other Boston Marathon finisher prizes in the mail in the near future and hopes the money raised for LLS will continue to bring progress in finding a cure for the disease and bring progress to those that need it. Miller praised everyone that helped her accomplish the inspiring tale from helping with trial runs, during the run, and mental and physical throughout the entire journey.
For more information on LLS, or how to help contribute to the cause, email Kendra Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.