Christie Cox never expected that she would be part of the New York City Marathon when she began running 21 years ago. But on November 4, 2018, she found herself crossing the finish line with a time of 5:46:16. It wasn’t her personal best, but it was a moment that she still savors.
"I began running 21 years ago after my younger sister died in a car accident," she shares. "My kids were little, and my two-year-old didn't like to see me cry. I ran to cope with the loss I felt."
But as Christie put in mile after mile, she wasn’t alone. She had a running partner in the form of half of a purple handkerchief, now well-worn after nearly two decades of training runs, half marathons, and trail races. Discovered in her sister’s things, it has been an invaluable part of Christie’s journey. When her father passed away, she also began carrying one of his handkerchiefs on her runs.
Christie, an Emergency Room nurse at St. James Healthcare, wasn't initially sure that she was going to be running the New York Marathon. An injury to her hip and leg had sidelined her training efforts so she couldn't meet standard time requirements. Instead, she applied as part of the lottery drawing system. Only 17% of applicants were accepted—and Christie was one of them.
“I begin work at St. James at 6:00 a.m., but I’m up at 3:30 because I have an hour-long commute,” Christie shares. “I remember checking my phone as soon as I was up and excited to see that my name had been drawn for the race. As I drove to work that morning, however, I began thinking about my colleague Dick Oberweiser, who had worked in the ER with me but had passed away from cancer. I remembered Dr. [Brett] Kronenberger, who had also passed. I thought about my sister and my father. I thought about my husband Matt, who had recently fought pancreatic cancer and another nurse, Mary, who has been in her own cancer fight.”
It was then that Christie decided to honor the lives of others with her Marathon run. Over the next months, she reached out to family members asking them for handkerchiefs or other items she could carry with her. She also had a temporary tattoo created for her forearm with an individual’s name and the mile she was running for them. Each had significance to her, including the mile she chose merely for her love of running and the peace it's brought her.
“The families were so kind to me, and my requests to them were very well received,” Christie says. “It was good to spend time with them and just remember those we loved.”
When asked if she would continue to run for others now that the New York City Marathon is behind her, Christie is quick to say yes.
“I think it will always be for others. I like taking them on the trail with me; it’s a spiritual thing. I can imagine that we’re spending time together.”
Christie is now training for the HURL Elkhorn Endurance 53 Mile Run, which will be held in Helena in August. She is also a yoga instructor in addition to her work as an RN in the St. James Healthcare Emergency Department.