N.S. mother runs Toronto Marathon six years after daughter died during race
When a Cape Breton teenager died while running the Toronto Marathon, her mother said she would never run a marathon again.
But, six years later, Katherine Van Nostrand has done just that, saying it was an emotional and inspiring experience that helped her confront her grief and take back the sport she loves.
“Emma would have wanted me to do it and I feel great that I did it,” she says. “I’m happy and I’m proud.”
Katherine was running the Toronto Marathon with her daughter, Emma, on May 5, 2013, when the 18-year-old girl collapsed just a few kilometres shy of the finish line.
Katherine didn’t know anything was wrong until after she crossed the finish line. That’s when elation quickly turned into a parent’s worst nightmare.
It was later determined that Emma’s death had been caused by a rare, undetected heart condition.
“I left Toronto saying I would never run another marathon and I would never go back to Toronto,” says Katherine.
But, as time passed, she decided conquering the same race would be an important part of the healing process. She also took it as a sign that this year’s marathon fell on the anniversary of Emma’s death.
“So, it was six years. It happened to fall on the same day this year because next year being a leap year, and I felt that I was physically ready and mentally ready.”
After training through the cold Cape Breton winter, she lined up at the start of the Toronto Marathon on May 5, 2019 -- six years to the day that she lost Emma.
Just before the race began, Katherine says she spotted something that stopped her in her tracks.
“Just before I went out to run -- I don’t know how many people understand the concept of dimes from heaven -- I looked down at my feet and there was a dime on the ground and I thought, ‘Oh my word, she’s with me.’”
So were her loved ones. Her husband, Steve, and their three children ran the 10K, while 38 friends who made the trip cheered them on from the sidelines, decked out in T-shirts bearing Emma’s motto, “Carpe Diem.”
Some other special people were there, too.
“I met the lovely nurse that was with Emma the day that everything happened,” says Katherine. “It was just such a positive event for all of us and a celebration of her life.”
Katherine finished the race in 4 hours and 14 minutes and she believes Emma was with her the whole way.
“She was absolutely there at the finish. It was the most amazing event that I think I’ve ever done,” she says.
Katherine says the experience, and feeling her daughter’s spirit, have motivated her to keep running towards her next goal – the Boston Marathon.
While Katherine has already completed the prestigious marathon four times, she says, this time, her daughter’s memory is urging her on.
“She knows I will do it, and I will do it. I’ll do it with her in mind, but basically it’s for me.”
With files from CTV Atlantic's Ryan MacDonald