On Sunday, October 12, 2014, Mia Byrne crossed the finish line of the Chicago Marathon, completing the race in 5:55. It was a tribute to her husband Michael that she was able to finish. In the past few months as Michael’s health was declining and her role as primary caregiver became more consuming, she hadn’t done any long distance runs. Her longest training run was only six miles the week before the race.
In 2004, Mia Byrne’s friend Jennifer Hartzler had run the New York City Marathon with Michael, who was an 11-year GIST survivor at the time. Together they raised $13,000 for the Life Raft Group.
Jennifer wanted to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of that run this year for the Life Raft Group and for Michael. Since Michael could no longer run, Mia decided to join Jennifer, along with Michael’s sister, Katie, and Mia’s friend, Carol.
Mia and Michael’s son was only one when Michael was first diagnosed, and they feared he wouldn’t see him grow up. Michael saw him graduate from high school this past summer. Mia believes that miracles do happen, and that she has been given many.
The Byrne family made the decision to continue with the race and honor the extraordinary life of Michael Byrne when he passed away on August 9 after a courageous 21-year battle with GIST. Mia requested that any memorial donations in Michael’s memory should go to the marathon fundraiser for the LRG’s “We Are The Cure” campaign. To date, they have raised $79, 145 and counting.
Sharing Strength and Hope
Mia, Jennifer, Katie and Carol started the race together. They crossed the starting line holding hands. Mia ran the first 5k with Jennifer, and then began a routine of doing a 4-minute run, 1-minute walk. Determined to finish the race, she kept up this routine until mile 18, when the pain in her feet became so intense that the walk breaks became longer than the run intervals. Like many at the race, Mia wore a sign to commemorate who she was running for. Along the way she met a young woman whose husband was battling brain cancer and walked with her until mile 23, sharing strength, hope and experiences as she recovered her energy.
Many tears were shed as Mia crossed the finish line: tears of sorrow, tears of joy, and tears of gratitude, exhaustion and pain. Jennifer finished in 5:09. Katie and Carol together ran 13.1 miles of the race.
After taking a cab back to the hotel, they met members of the Chicago Life Raft Group chapter for a celebration dinner. It was truly the perfect way to honor Michael’s memory.