On the morning of Danette Cristel’s first marathon as a Mercy Home Hero, she received unthinkable news: her mother had passed away.
“It was a pretty tough day … I was pretty shook up,” she remembered. “I thought I had prepared myself for every eventuality, but when I walked into the headquarters, [it was difficult].”
Earlier in the year, her elderly mother got sick and the illness progressed over the summer. Danette turned to other Heroes she knew from Facebook for support as she faced a hard decision about how to proceed with the marathon.
“I started talking to some people in Chicago, [other] Heroes, getting some support because I could see what was about to happen,” she said. “I continued to train, and I was going no matter what. We were doing this.”
Danette’s commitment and persistence even in the face of very difficult circumstances was an attitude she shared with her mother.
“My mother was a big competitor,” she said. “She actually played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League [and] had her own baseball card.”
So when it was time to decide whether to travel from St. Louis to Chicago to run the marathon, she knew that running was what her mother would want her to do.
“She was the type of person [who said] you paid for that, you better go do that,” she said. “And she was a competitor. If you said you were going to do something, you did it.”
Danette saw her mother for the last time the Thursday before the marathon and felt comfortable leaving town.
“I come from a really big family,” she explained. “I didn’t feel like I was needed, like if I was to go, I wasn’t leaving her alone.”
Danette heard from her sister at 5:30 a.m. on marathon day that her mother died overnight—she had waited to call Danette so she wouldn’t disturb her in the middle of the night before running.
Danette thought of her mother’s words to her: to go out and make her proud.
“So, I did,” she said. “I knew there was nothing left to do at that point. It was hard.”
Even in the face of tragedy, Danette went to the Heroes’ Headquarters ready to run the race and support the children of Mercy Home.
“When I walked into the headquarters, a few people I had befriended knew about it and they asked me [about her] and Jim [Harding, the Heroes Coordinator] asked and we all prayed before we left,” she said. “I kind of felt at that moment that was right where I belonged. I was doing what I was supposed to do with people who cared, and my sons were there, and I felt like this is what I’m supposed to do today, and I went out and did it.”