Heart transplant recipient, donor's father finish Chicago Marathon hand-in-hand

Chicago Tribune 4 months ago

Before heading to the Chicago Marathon on Sunday morning, Shae Brown pulled Fred Miller aside to tweak their plan of running the race together.

"Fred said he was going to step back and let me cross the finish line first, and I said I didn't want that," said Shae, a heart transplant recipient whose donor was Fred's daughter, Alyssa. "I wanted us to finish together. And we did, holding hands high in the air."

They completed the course in 6 hours, 30 minutes and 13 seconds, running "conservatively and strategically," according to Fred, 62, a psychiatrist for NorthShore University HealthSystem in Evanston. They did everyone proud.

Emotion fueled both runners. Whenever Shae hit a rough patch she thought of Alyssa, whose death in May 2013 from an illness at the age of 24 provided the heart that saved her life.

"I kept telling myself I trained to do this and the reason why I was doing it kept me going," said Shae, 49, of Shiner, Texas.

Alyssa's memory inspired Fred too, in ways he can't describe, as did seeing Shae commit everything she had to conquer the 26.2-mile challenge.

"What gave me tremendous energy was I could see the enormous courage in Shae and that was the most fueling part for me," Fred said. "She wasn't going to give up."

Shae never considered it, though she acknowledged hitting the proverbial wall around the 20-mile mark. Some encouragement from Fred helped pull her through and, in his words, the last couple miles they were "on auto-pilot."

As the duo crossed the finish line together triumphantly, hand in hand, the moment overwhelmed Shae.

"I cried," Shae said. "I didn't expect that at all."

In time, Fred believes he will process the range of "deep emotions" he experienced from the day he pledged to run with Shae through their last few steps of the course. But, first, he has to stop smiling.

"It was euphoric," Fred said. "It was such a gorgeous day that I felt my daughter wanted everybody to be happy."

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