Lifestyle Sports

Going for the Finish: West Hartford Resident Runs to Help Others

A smiling Christy Miller wraps up the Boston marathon, which was held in April on a cold and rainy day. Courtesy photo

Christy Miller raises money for cancer research to honor friends lost – one race at a time.

Christy Miller often ran the Boston Marathon in April to honor two friends who died of cancer in the last few years, Chip Malafronte and Vicki Bokser. Courtesy image

By Tracey Weiss

She’s run in 22 marathons and raised thousands of dollars for charity, but Christy Miller is just getting started.

One of her most recent races may be a personal best: Miller ran the Boston Marathon this April, and raised $22,268 with the help of 160 donors. Miller is thoughtful and handwrote a letter of thanks to each person. “I was humbly overwhelmed by everyone’s generosity,” she said.

She ran for a team that raised funds for Golf Fights Cancer, a nonprofit organization that, according to them, is “dedicated to raising funds for cancer-related charities and research organizations with the goal of fighting cancer and making financial contributions that can make immediate, tangible differences.” The team finished 10th out of 269 fundraising charities and contributed an astonishing $601,337 to an overall total of $40 million raised by marathon participants.

Miller’s done enough of these races to know that it’s an honor to get to run in the marathon, let alone feel so good about raising money for those who need it. “Believe it or not, it’s hard to get on a team,” she said. “You have to qualify or run for charity. Qualifying times are challenging. I don’t run for speed. I go for the finish.”

Plus, “you have to plot to get on teams” like Golf Fights Cancer. “They can pick who they want,” she added.

Christy Miller had special t-shirts made for her run in the marathon, to honor those who were being remembered by her donors. “If you donated a certain amount,” she said. “I had (the name of the person you were donating in honor of) on my t-shirt. If you agreed to donate after I had the shirts up, I wrote the name on my body.” Courtesy photo

Miller was a good fit for this particular team, though. She works part time for the Hartford Marathon and is development and communications director for First Tee Hartford, as well as an adjunct at University of Hartford this fall, when the school starts its new sports management program. She also coaches 5- and 6-year-olds on Wednesday nights.

“I applied and wrote an essay, and I was on the hook for $10,000,” she said. “All charities have a minimum that they want you to raise, of $8,500 and above. And they want to know your goal.” In other words, the minimum amount to is not enough.

“I did the race in 4:39,” she said. “It was a rainy, cloudy day, not the best weather and it poured sometimes.” But something about the spirit of the crowd lifted her up.

“’Heartbreak Hill,’” as it is known, is in the last mile of the marathon and the fans carry you through it,” she said. “It’s hard to think. I was running with a dumb smile on my face. I was so happy to be there.”

She had special t-shirts made for the marathon. “If you donated a certain amount, I had (the name of the person you were donating in honor of) on my t-shirt. If you agreed to donate after I had the shirts made, I wrote the name on my body.”

Personally, Miller ran in honor of two friends who died of cancer. “One was a college roommate of mine – she died from a rare uterine cancer at only 51 in March of 2022. We met at Unica College of Syracuse University. She was one of the most charismatic people I’ve ever known. It’s hard to imagine life without her. She lived in Hoboken and was a headhunter. She left behind an 8-year-old child.

“My other friend was named Chip Malafronte – he was a sportswriter for the New Haven Register – he was only 48 when he died of a terrible cancer that started with a tumor in his throat. He also left behind a young son. He died in August of 2020. He was the humblest person I have ever met. He was so kind.”

Christy Miller was celebrated by her family when she completed her 100th race with the Run 169 Towns Society. The group of more than 4,300 members aims to run a race in all 169 towns in Connecticut while raising money for charities. Back row, left: one of Miller’s best friends, Linsie Esau and his daughter, Maya Esau on his shoulders, Miller’s father, Barry Miller, and her running buddy Janet Tarasuk. Front row: Linsi Esau’s wife, Michelle Esau, Christy Miller, her daughter Shelby Deep, and Miller’s mom, Carol Miller. Courtesy photo

Run 169 Towns Society

Miller is admittedly goal-oriented and social, especially when it comes to participating in races. She includes Chicago, New York, and now of course, Boston, in the 22 marathons she’s run. That also means she is halfway to earning the “Six Star Medal.” The medal is given to those who run in the six biggest marathons in the world (Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, and New York). She is looking to achieve that status as well.

Hartford was her first marathon, in 2008, she said, “right before I turned 40.”

For now, the goal she hopes to accomplish soon is to finish the Run 169 Towns Society challenge. There are 4,340 members in Run 169 group, which is a group of runners formed by individuals who aspire to run a race in every town in the State of Connecticut.

“It includes people of all ages, sizes and abilities,” she said. “It’s great. You make friends and see our beautiful state.”

As of press time, Miller has run in 149 towns. “I run two races on the weekend. The final stretch, when you get down to the last 20, is the hardest,” she said. “Throw COVID into the middle and races were cancelled,” so it’s taking her longer.

“Every race is for charity,” she added. “I feel so good about it. It’s a win-win. It’s good for the body, seeing the state, and seeing all of the money going to a good cause.”

When you finish your 100th race in a town, “You get a medal, and they make a big deal out of it,” she said. “When you do all 169, you get crowned.”

And when she accomplishes that goal? “I’ll go back to doing the races I want to do,” she said.

Miller’s friend Janet Tarasuk is a friend and fellow runner.

“We met at a parent leadership training institute course,” Tarasuk said. Their daughters, Ellery Tarasuk and Shelby Deep, are friends too. “We hit it off. I thought, ‘I kinda like this girl.’ So we agreed to run some time.”

That turned into a standing weekly run at the reservoir every Wednesday. “I admire her drive and ambition,” Tarasuk said. “She’s outgoing, and caring and thoughtful. She’s a good person – she raises money for all these causes. I don’t know how she fits it all in. She made me a book (The Story of Two Crazy Running Chicks) with pictures of us running together. She is over the top thoughtful.”

At the end of her 100th race, Christy Miller was celebrated by fellow members of the Run 169 Towns Society. The group of more than 4,300 members aims to run a race in all 169 towns in Connecticut. Courtesy photo

Run for the love of it

The benefits of running are many, according to Miller. “The thing I love about running is that it’s easy. It’s free. All you need are sneakers. Walk out the front door and do it. Anyone can do it.”

There’s another benefit: “I work out issues and problems,” she said. ”It keeps me sane and it starts my day off the right way. I’ve also met some of my closest friends in the sport.

“I would encourage you to go to Fleet Feet (a retail store in West Hartford Center), get a good pair of shoes, and join Run 169. Do good things: this is good for the community, good for your health, and a good way to make friends.”

A version of this story previously appeared in the July issue of West Hartford LIFE.

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