In the world of ultra running, where athletes push their physical and mental limits to unimaginable extremes, Miriam Gilbert is a remarkable name. She is not just an ultra runner and author; she is a living testament to the power of endurance sports to heal people mentally, physically, and spiritually. Her journey proves to us the indomitable human spirit while finding healing and strength through the pursuit of athletic endeavors.
A Therapeutic Journey: Miriam’s Introduction to Running
Miriam’s path to ultra running was not a typical one. She didn’t start as a competitive athlete but rather stumbled upon the sport in the most unexpected way. In 1979, during her college years, she turned to running as a therapeutic means to cope with a broken heart. Little did she know that this seemingly simple act would set her on a life-changing path.
From 5ks to Marathons: Miriam’s Gradual Progression
From 5ks to 10ks and half marathons, Miriam gradually built her running prowess. Remarkably, she ran her first half marathon when her second child was six months old. This showed her unwavering commitment to both her family and her passion for running. Two years later, she ventured into her first full marathon, a challenging endeavor that tested her resolve.
It was during that marathon, at mile 19, that Miriam faced a pivotal moment. Doubt crept in, and she questioned her purpose and resolve. “What am I doing? Why am I here?” she asked herself. But Miriam’s perspective soon kicked in, and with unwavering determination, she crossed the finish line. Little did she know that this race would be a defining moment in her life, setting the stage for her remarkable journey ahead.
The Mystery Ailment: Battling a B12 Deficiency
However, her path to ultra running was not without its challenges. In 2009, Miriam was sidelined by a mysterious ailment that doctors initially struggled to diagnose. It was a B12 deficiency, a condition that had eluded other medical professionals but was crucial to her overall well-being. The condition left her unable to run, but Miriam’s tenacious spirit drove her to seek a second opinion. A chance discovery of a professional athlete’s experience with a similar condition led her to a neurologist at Johns Hopkins, who finally diagnosed her with myelopathy of the spinal cord due to severe B12 deficiency.
Undergoing B12 injections, Miriam experienced a miraculous recovery. She emphasized the importance of movement in her life and how it made her feel alive once again. In 2010, she made a triumphant comeback to running, participating in the grueling North Face 50. Despite finishing just outside the official time limit, Miriam’s determination and grit shone through.
Discovering Ultra Running: The JFK 50 Mile Race
The JFK 50 in 2005 opened the door to a new world of possibilities for Miriam. She discovered the Philadelphia 100, her first 100-mile race, and embarked on this epic journey. At mile 96, she found herself in awe of what her body and mind had achieved. Crossing the finish line, she listened to Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power,” and a mantra was born.
In 2012, Miriam’s journey took an unexpected turn when, just days after her remarkable finish in her first 24-hour ultra, she underwent a scheduled hysterectomy. What should have been a routine procedure turned into a life-threatening situation as her left ureter was transected. Miriam’s exceptional fitness and mental fortitude played a significant role in her survival.
Resilience Through Adversity: Miriam’s Determination
Throughout her recovery, Miriam visualized the finish line of an ultra race to stay motivated. She underwent three surgeries in a span of ten weeks, losing twenty pounds in the process. Her unwavering determination drew inspiration from her parents, both in their 90s, who exemplified the power of resilience.
In 2018, Miriam faced another daunting challenge as her husband, Jon, was diagnosed with Stage 4 colorectal cancer. Running, which had been a source of solace for her, gained a deeper meaning. She began running for Jon’s healing, using it as a means to process the emotional turmoil of their situation.
May 2020 brought a glimmer of hope as Jon was declared in remission. In her newfound gratitude, Miriam founded Ultra Care for Cancer Caregivers, a Go Fund Me initiative aimed at supporting caregivers often overlooked in the journey of illness and recovery.
Conquering EoE: Miriam’s Journey to Healing
Miriam’s own health journey continued with a battle against eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), an autoimmune disease of the esophagus, which she had suffered for 26 years. Hospitalized during a severe episode in September 2021, she embarked on a challenging six-food elimination diet to identify triggers. Her unwavering commitment and the discovery of her “Miriam” diet, consisting solely of foods free of all preservatives, additives, food coloring, steroids, antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, and insecticides, led her to full healing.
Miriam’s story of resilience and healing has touched lives worldwide through her blog posts. In July 2022, Jon’s cancer returned, prompting a quest to visit national parks while managing their health carefully. In December 2022, Jon completed his last treatment, once again in remission.
Continuing the Ultra Journey: Finding Healing and Strength Through Endurance Sports
As Miriam approaches her 65th birthday in January 2024, she continues to defy the odds and push her boundaries. Her 36th ultra, a grueling 48-hour event, serves as a testament to her unwavering spirit. Miriam Gilbert’s remarkable journey reminds us that endurance sports can heal not only the body but also the soul, and her story serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration for all who face life’s challenges head-on. By finding healing and strength through endurance sports, Miriam continues to provide inspiration and motivation to us all.