A month before the New York City Marathon, Patrick Miller learned his cancer had returned.
Questions surfaced he never wanted to ask: Should he continue to train and run the risk of hampering his healing? Or should he heed his doctors’ advice, shut it down and focus on fighting his disease?
The marathon wasn’t just a race to the former Fresno State basketball player. It was a cause. The 41-year-old father of two was using his training to raise money for academic scholarships to help military veterans and their spouses through the Pat Tillman Foundation.
And it was personal, that dream of finishing 26.2 brutal miles of his first marathon.
Miller ultimately decided that whatever physical stress his body might endure couldn’t match the emotional burden of knowing he never ran this race.
On Sunday, he completed the world-famous marathon in 4 hours, 5 minutes and 20 seconds. Along the way, he raised $3,700 for the Pat Tillman Foundation.
“The whole process has been an amazing experience,” Miller said Monday in a phone interview from New York. “I feel blessed I was able to do it and that I finished.”
Along with cancer weakening his body, he ran the New York City Marathon low on fuel to power his 6-foot-6, 215-pound frame.
After his testicular cancer diagnosis, he switched to a strict diet of mostly fruits and vegetables – a stark contrast to the typical high-calorie intake of athletes used to consuming hefty doses of carbohydrates and proteins. The diet is part of his fight against cancer using more natural methods, including vitamin C treatments and Gerson Therapy, which saturates the body with nutrients. He’s chosen to forgo chemotherapy, which he took three years ago when his cancer first appeared and then went into remission.
His lung capacity also was reduced because the cancer spread into his chest and lymph nodes.
Rain and cool temperatures during the race were a challenge, as was overcoming the worries of his mother, Kelly Miller.
“I was very concerned when I heard he wanted to go run in the marathon,” Kelly Miller says. “I told him, ‘Your mom and grandma said no, you can’t run,’ and he said, ‘No, I am running.’ ”
I realized this was a life milestone.
Miller, a Central High School and Fresno State graduate, lives in San Diego, where he works as a business development officer with Wells Fargo and as a real estate investor. His family owns Bullard Uniforms and the PressBox Sports Grill in Fresno, along with claiming Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula, D-Fresno, as an in-law.
The opposition to his decision to run in the marathon softened over the past month.
“I realized this was a life milestone. … I realized it was extremely important to him,” his mother says, “to know he could complete something that was so severe.”
Despite the physical demand, Patrick Miller called the marathon an amazing cultural experience and a boost for his energy and outlook.
“Emotional health is so important,” he says. “I’ve really worked on things like meditating and getting into that space where I can really reflect and be positive.”
Kelly Miller describes her son as the family’s mediator.
“He always has a smile on his face and he’s always there to hug you and lift your spirits,” she says. “He’s always there to find the best in whatever is occurring. He is very, very easy to get to know because he is kind and gentle.”
With that positivity, I can get through it.
A friend created a GoFundMe donation account that has raised more than $9,000 to help with his medical bills. Miller will learn more about the status of his cancer at a medical appointment in January.
In the meantime, he has memories from a race well run to lift his spirits.
He says finishing the marathon bolstered “that feeling that I’m trying to have all the time – that I can do anything, that I can be anything, that I can take on anything. And with that positivity, I can get through it.”
Other Fresno finishers
Steven Waite finished 219th out of the 50,000 runners in a time of 2 hours 44 minutes and 24 seconds
Esmeraldo Arada finished 43,959th in a time of 5:39:49