“My finishing time was my worst ever, but it was the best race of my life,” said Christy Johnson of Morgantown, who recently ran a 26.2 mile marathon and raised more than $5,000 in support of Mon General Hospital’s Morgantown Hospice in the process.
Johnson ran the Anthem Richmond Marathon, held in Richmond, VA, on Nov. 10 in remembrance of her mother, Mary Nicholson, and for Morgantown Hospice which had provided care to her mother.
“The reason I chose the Richmond marathon is because they advertised that they had a ‘junk food junkie’s stop’ on the 21st mile that would be filled with all kinds of junk food,” she said. “I know, crazy and funny, but that is the true reason I chose Richmond.
“My goal was to raise $5,000 for Morgantown Hospice,” Johnson said. “I knew that this would be a difficult task, but I came up with the idea to ask people to donate $26.20 (based on the marathon being 26.2 miles).
“I sent out support letters asking people to donate,” she said. “My campaign slogan was ‘Morgantown Hospice goes the extra mile every day…the least I can do for them is run 26.2 miles.’
“Many people gave more than that amount and others gave less than that amount,” she said. “I also had a donation can where I work and our customers together donated around $1,200. There was an anonymous donor who gave $450 with the message: ‘I will be with you every mile.’ I also had a lady donate $500 in memory of her sister who was a hospice patient. “
Money continued to come in after she reached her goal. “My grand total was $5,268.95,” Johnson said. “I find it to be an important message that a lot of people giving even small amounts adds up to big things. Too often people do not give to organizations because they feel they don’t have enough to give. This marathon proved them wrong.”
Why did Johnson choose to run in support of Morgantown Hospice?
“Mon General has a billboard across from Sheetz (at Rt. 705 and Pineview Drive) that reads: We Mend Broken Hearts,” she said. “My reply to that is they sure do, in more ways than one. I actually took a picture of this billboard and gave it to Heather Young, Bereavement Counselor at Morgantown Hospice, with a note of thanks for helping to mend my broken heart.
“My mother had a long term illness,” she said. “My brother and I were care-providers for many years and when we could no longer meet her medical needs, she was placed in a nursing home. She was in a nursing home for seven years. Two years ago, she was placed with Morgantown Hospice. They provided excellent care for her in every way imaginable. I am still touched to tears at the thought. After 18 months on hospice, mom was released as a patient. She was then placed back with Morgantown Hospice in August of this year and she passed away on Sept. 2.
“When placing my mother on hospice, we as a family were also given support,” Johnson said, noting that Michelle Hopkins, Support Services Coordinator at Morgantown Hospice, often called to ask how the family was doing and if they needed anything. “There was a time that my mother almost passed away and it was then that I felt a need to seek help for myself.
“The toll of taking care of a loved one is astronomical and the burden had become heavy,” she said. “One day I called Michelle in tears and admitted that I needed some help dealing with this. It was then that she asked the bereavement counselor to give me a call.
“Heather began to see me once every two weeks so that I could sort through the pain and trials of having a terminally ill mother,” she said. “She gave me the tools needed to see me through the journey and when I say I could not have made it without this, I sincerely mean that. Not only did I receive one-on-one counseling, but I also began to take advantage of the Bereavement Support Group offered by Morgantown Hospice. I continue to get the support needed from the Bereavement Support Group now that my mother has passed away.
“I guess the real reason I wanted to run this marathon for Morgantown Hospice is because I became aware of all that they do as an organization,” Johnson said. “I was blessed to get the help I needed knowing full well that those services were provided to me at no charge. Even though my husband and I began to donate on a monthly basis, I wanted to do more. I not only wanted to raise money for an organization that had become very near and dear to my heart, but I also wanted the community to be aware of the services that are provided when a patient and family are dealing with end of life care.”
Johnson finished the marathon in 6 hours and 26 minutes. She has run a total of six marathons and 20 half marathons since she began to run in 2004. The Anthem Richmond Marathon was her final marathon. She had a leg injury last year and was advised by her doctor to give up marathons. “I asked my doctor if I could do one more and I was given permission if I did it within the year,” she said.
During the marathon, Johnson took time to honor each Morgantown Hospice employee who worked with her family. She carried index cards with each employee’s name on them and wrote short messages.
“I also ran in remembrance of loved ones passed,” she said. “These were a separate stack of index cards. I took time to remember each loved one from the support group. I also took time to remember some of my friends’ loved ones.
“Both of these made this the most memorable marathon of my life,” she said. “It was a great way to end my marathon career. I was also honored to have Michelle Hopkins and her family at the finish line. As I told her, ‘having you at the finish line, the person who I first came to for help, PRICELESS!’”
Morgantown Hospice, a service of Mon General Hospital, has been providing care to the terminally ill of Monongalia County since 1983. For more information about Morgantown Hospice, call (304) 285-2777 or visit www.morgantownhospice.com.