Can Running A Marathon Help Your Grieving Process?

Eric Meyler had no idea that his attempt to impress a girl he liked would lead to him falling in love and training to run a marathon. 

“She told me she was a big runner, and I told her I was a runner too, not knowing she was an extremely dedicated marathon runner.” Meyler says he’s always been athletic so he thought he would have no problem keeping up with her. “I agreed to go on a run with her the next day and it turns out she was running a 7:45 pace and it took everything endurance-wise for me to keep up with her,” he remembered of their first three mile run together. “I found out later on that day that she had already ran six miles earlier and this was her second run of the day…her recovery run.” 

Eric and Heather Meyler

The couple married in October of 2017 in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Heather’s favorite place. Just six months after, his wife Heather began having GI issues that led to the discovery of cancer. Doctors diagnosed Heather with ovarian cancer and performed surgery to remove as much of the disease as they could, but weren’t able to remove it all. 

Heather began chemotherapy and continued to do what she loved, running daily. “At the time, she felt really good. Chemo was working for a little while and she kept on running and working out a couple of days a week. But as time went on the cancer progressed and we began to travel the country visiting other hospitals to get other opinions.” The Meyler’s ended up at a hospital in Houston, Texas where doctors diagnosed Heather with stage four appendix cancer instead of the original ovarian cancer diagnosis in April 2018. The Meyler’s continued their search for a treatment program that felt right for Heather, and eventually landed on one in Tampa, Florida which also allowed them to live near her parents. Heather’s daily runs went from three miles to just around the block or down the street as the cancer continued to spread.

“Eventually her doctor said that it was in her best interest to stop running because she was doing more harm than she was good, sapping all her energy. That was really hard for her, but she didn’t give up. We joined a gym at that point and go once or twice a week when she was feeling good. When she started having trouble walking, I’d like pick her up and carry her to a bike and she’d spin for 30 or 40 minutes,” Eric recalled of Heather’s tenacity and desire to stay active until the very end. 

Two weeks before Heather passed away the couple took a trip to New Orleans, a place Heather had always wanted to visit, to celebrate their second wedding anniversary. “We had a really good time and I pushed her around in a wheelchair while we explored the city. I think she was holding on to a make it to our anniversary and once we took the trip, I think she was ready to go. She was in so much pain and had been fighting so hard for so long. Her body was just ready. She went into a coma and eventually went in her sleep.” 

While she was in the coma, Eric made her a promise. “I told her I’d run the Charleston City Marathon because that was the race that she always ran. She always wanted me to run it with her, but I didn’t get the chance while she was here. I promised her that I would run the race in her honor.” 

After she passed, Eric moved back to North Carolina and began to make good on his promise. With the help of his local running store, he found a running coach to help him get ready for the race coming up in January.

His coach was with him in November when he had his first run, a one mile memorial run in Heather’s honor that ended with her favorite taco truck and friends who joined Meyler to remember his wife.

“I’m not an elite runner like she was, but I run now to honor her memory and to raise awareness for cancer. This disease doesn’t discriminate. Heather was the healthiest person I knew–she was a vegan, dietician, a marathon runner…this diagnosis came out of nowhere. It can happen to anyone.”

Eric says that running now makes him feel closer to his wife and is helping him process his grief. “She’d be amazed that I can run as far as I do now. Her dream was for us to run this race together. I wish I could have done it while she was still here, but I think she’d be happy knowing that I’m doing it now, and I’m doing it for her,” he said. “Running has become a big time stress-reliever and it’s therapeutic for me because I feel so close to Heather now when I’m running. I know that’s what she would want me to be doing. I know she would be proud of me and that’s what keeps me going on.”

Meyler says his hardest days now are the days he can’t run. “Fridays are normally the hardest day for me right now, because I don’t have that one hour or two hour window where I get to go out and relieve stress by running to clear my mind. It’s been a great tool for me to use throughout this grieving process.”

To follow along with Eric’s journey on the road to the Charleston City Marathon in January 2021, check out his Facebook page

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Written by sportfuelslife

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