AF Canyon Half Marathon raises money to fight cancer

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Michelle Flowers with her mother, Julia Flowers, before Julia passed away from cancer. Michelle will be running the American Fork Canyon Half Marathon this year in her mother's memory. (Photo courtesy Michelle Flowers)

Michelle Flowers with her mother, Julia Flowers, before Julia passed away from cancer. Michelle will be running the American Fork Canyon Half Marathon this year in her mother’s memory. (Photo courtesy Michelle Flowers)

The American Fork Canyon Half Marathon and 5K will bring runners across Utah together on June 21 to run for a worthy and familiar cause: raising money for those diagnosed with cancer.

Many who run are survivors of cancer. Others are family members and friends of those still in the fight. And others run in memoriam of a loved ones who died of cancer.

One such runner is Orem native Michelle Flowers. Over a year ago her mom, Julia Flowers, was fighting uterine cancer.

“At the time my plan was to run the 5K and push Mom in a wheelchair along the route,” Flowers said. “The idea of crossing the finish line together would be symbolic of our defeating this terrible disease together.”

However, Julia’s health declined too much for that to happen. The women resolved to try again next year. Unfortunately, “next year” is here, but Julia is not.

“Mom didn’t make it that long,” Flowers said. “On Sept. 19, 2013, I lost my very best friend in the whole world. Words can’t even begin to describe how lost I feel without her. I miss her every day, and I always will.”

Flowers is running though. Training for the race has given her something to look forward to. Flowers said she felt like the race — which takes place in AF canyon, her mother’s favorite place in the world — was unfinished business that she needs to complete for herself and her mom.
[pullquote]”I’m hoping it will be therapeutic and a symbolic end to the emotional roller coaster I’ve been on. It’s going to be closure.” —Michelle Flowers, AF Canyon 5K runner[/pullquote]

“I’m hoping it will be therapeutic and a symbolic end to the emotional roller coaster I’ve been on. It’s going to be closure,” Flowers said.

She said she hopes to make this race an annual tradition for herself as well. Proceeds from the race every year go to families in the community that need help in paying for cancer treatments. One thousand people in Utah County are diagnosed with cancer each year, and many struggle with the financial side of the disease as well.

Like many other participants, Flowers runs for those still fighting—including her grandfather and a close friend. She runs so those fighting will be able to pay for treatments, and she runs for those she’s lost and for herself.

“I run for me, to gain a brief respite from my grief. I run to feel like I’m doing something to eradicate this despicable disease. But most of all I run for my Mom, Julia C. Flowers, who loved to run and loved the mountains and shared that love and her amazing spirit with everyone who met her,” she said. “I won’t be pushing her across the finish line in a wheelchair, but I know she will be there all the same — cheering me on just like she always has and always will.”

The American Fork Half Marathon and 5K is Saturday, June 21 starting at 6 a.m.

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Kelly Haight is a BYU graduate with a degree in communications and an editing minor. Her emphasis was in journalism, and she enjoys covering sports, the arts and writing opinion-editorials. She also works full-time as a content editor for an SEO company.