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It's more than a race to me

By Annette Miller, Special to CNN
updated 6:55 AM EDT, Fri May 31, 2013
Anje and Darbi hug Annette Miller tightly at the finish line of the half marathon.
Anje and Darbi hug Annette Miller tightly at the finish line of the half marathon.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Annette Miller has lost more than 150 pounds; she now weighs 219
  • Miller's trainer was diagnosed with uterine cancer in November
  • Miller and her two best friends ran the St. Jude Country Music Half Marathon

Editor's note: Annette Miller is one of six CNN viewers selected to be a part of the Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge program. Follow the "6-pack" on Twitter and Facebook as they train to race the Nautica Malibu Triathlon with Dr. Sanjay Gupta on September 8.

(CNN) -- At my heaviest, I weighed 385 pounds. I never dared to dream I could run anywhere, never mind finish a half marathon.

Yet on April 27, 2013, I weighed 219 pounds. At 3:30 a.m., I ate breakfast, hydrated, laced up my shoes and headed to Centennial Park in Nashville, because I was running the St. Jude Country Music Half Marathon.

It had taken a village to get me to this day. This run was for Darbi, my best friend since college and her partner Anje, the two people that have taught me about the best me I can be. It was for Team Rio, the running group that became like family to me. It was for April, my CNN Fit Nation trainer.

The 13.1 miles I was about to run weren't about the race itself, but about everything -- and everyone -- it took to get me there.

Behind the scenes: Training for a triathlon

Anje is the biggest reason I've been able to lose more than 150 pounds. She became my trainer last June, then became one my biggest inspirations.

Anje, from left, Annette and Darbi pose for a photo before the half marathon.
Anje, from left, Annette and Darbi pose for a photo before the half marathon.

In November 2012 Anje was diagnosed with uterine cancer. She and I had been working on getting me to my goal weight, which is how we decided to run a 5k and a half marathon in 2013. The plan was to do them together. I will never forget how scared I was, the anger I felt or the tears I cried, the day I heard her say, "I have cancer."

With a cancer diagnosis, Anje and Darbi should've been thinking about anything except me, but that's not the kind of hearts they have. Both were worried about how this was going to affect the plans Anje and I had made. So Darbi stepped in with her "I got this" swagger and picked up where Anje was forced leave off.

I still wonder how she did it sometimes. She would work out with me, work endlessly, go to all of Anje's doctor appointments and take care of everything at home. I know she was terrified, but never once did she complain. She's a true testament to the human spirit.

Anje's doctor decided she needed a complete hysterectomy, with possible radiation and/or chemo to follow, depending on what the surgery uncovered. Surgery was set for December 26. While Anje was in surgery, I was in the waiting room with Darbi.

Believe it or not, that was the same day I did my first phone interview for CNN Fit Nation. When Anje woke up from surgery, the first thing she said to me was, "Did you talk to CNN?"

I was now training for two races. Johanna, my Team Rio running coach, made sure April got my full running training plan. April then built the half training into my triathlon training. Some days it was a bit overwhelming, but I was the one who wanted this. I knew what I had to do, so I stuck to the plan and kept running.

While I was training, Anje was undergoing five weeks of radiation therapy.

On April 13, I had my first true "runner's high." I had 12 miles to run, my longest distance before the half. The group was small that day so one of the coaches decided to run with me. We like to talk so we kept the pace conversational.

Out of that run came a favorite phrase of mine: "What's the bigger beach?" You don't need the story behind it to understand what it means. It's asking whether you'll go for instant gratification or plan, sacrifice and work on the best possible outcome for the long run. I finished the run so inspired, feeling as if I could run another 12 miles.

Get fit and others will follow

On April 27, just two days before Anje's final radiation treatment, Darbi, Anje and I ran across the finish line of the St. Jude Country Music Half Marathon hand-in-hand. We were freezing and completely soaked from the rain.

All I could do was cry as they both wrapped their arms around me jumping and screaming, "You did it!"

No, I didn't do it, I thought. WE did it!

When I placed that half marathon medal around my neck, I knew it had all been worth it. I had made it to the "bigger beach."

Every time I see the medal now, I see the village it took to earn it. Most importantly, when I see the medal, I see me living.

Follow Miller on Twitter @TriHardAnnette.

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