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Running for a Cure

COM student tackles Boston Marathon for her uncle

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In the hours leading up to the start of Monday’s Boston Marathon, Mary Miller will prepare like any other runner. She will get a good night’s sleep, eat a few Kashi Bars, and use a foam roller to loosen up her legs. But she will also do something that many runners overlook: before setting off on the 26.2-mile course, Miller (COM’14) plans to apply sunscreen from head to toe.

This will be her first marathon, and she’s running in memory of her Uncle Mickey and a close family friend, both of whom died of melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.

“People know what melanoma is and might know someone who has had it, but they think it can never happen to them,” Miller says. “I know a lot of my friends still go tanning and sit out in the sun. You can’t stop them, but you can at least teach them to put sunblock on and tell them that if they start to see a spot, make sure they get it checked out right away.”

Miller will navigate her first marathon with her father, Dick Miller, a 16-time marathon veteran and her trainer for the past few months. They will be among the approximately 25,000 runners tackling a course that begins in Hopkinton, Mass., and ends in Copley Square.

Father and daughter are members of a team called Running for Cover, which is raising money to benefit the Melanoma Foundation of New England, a charity that promotes education, prevention, and support for the disease. The Millers’ initial goal was to raise $8,000 for the foundation. So far, they’ve collected $8,086, a feat that Mary says is amazing.

The College of Communication sophomore is familiar with melanoma’s sobering statistics. Her uncle was just 57 when he died in 2001.

She points out that the cancer often arises from a previously existing mole and can spread to other parts of the body if not diagnosed and treated early. Melanoma is the second most common cancer in young adults 25 to 29 and the second most common for those 15 to 29. If recognized early, it can almost always be treated successfully. According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 76,000 Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma this year and more than 9,000 will die from the disease.

While this is Mary’s first marathon, she’s been accompanying her dad on runs since she was little, and despite some initial grumbling, began running 5K races in high school.

Last spring, when Dick was training for the 2011 Boston Marathon with the Running for Cover Team, Mary decided to run this year and began training with him. She was aiming to finish a half marathon (she has since completed three). She joined up with her father at Boston College during last year’s race and crossed the finish line with him.

When she told her dad that she wanted to run the 2012 Boston Marathon, he became her biggest supporter, coming to BU from their home in Shrewsbury, Mass., several mornings a week to join her in a training run. “He’s the one who told me how far to run, how often to run,” Mary says. “Any questions I had, I went to him.”MARATHON

Besides supporting a great cause, both daughter and father say that training together has been a great bonding experience—they finished many runs by going out to breakfast.

“Whenever you train for a long-distance run with someone, you talk a lot because you’re out there for four hours,” Dick says. “I’ve been impressed with how well Mary has done. She is disciplined, and she’s given up some social things so that she can get up early in the morning to run. And I’m surprised how fast she is.”

Mary acknowledges that making time to train has been difficult and has entailed sacrifices. In addition to school, she interns at the Boston Athletic Association, the marathon organizer, as a volunteer coordinator. Committing to the race meant she couldn’t participate in this year’s BU on Broadway show, something she did last year and loved.

But she says all the juggling will pay off Monday morning, when her extended family gathers in Boston to cheer her and her father on. Dick predicts that given his daughter’s speed, next year she could very well qualify for the race without running for a charity.

“I didn’t realize how fast she was until we started to train together,” he says. “I told her that she can go ahead of me in the marathon if she wants to, but she says she’ll stay with me the entire time and we’ll finish together.”

Interested in supporting Mary and Dick Miller in their quest to raise funds for the Melanoma Foundation of New England? Donate here.

The Boston Marathon is Monday, April 16, beginning at 9 a.m. The best location for prime viewing is along Beacon Street, from East Campus through Brookline. Check out this online map to track how the marathon will progress.

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Amy Laskowski

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

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