For the last year, Mandy Morgan has been weighed down with the anxiety, pressure and preparations associated with running her first-ever marathon: training, guzzling liquids, proper diet, experimenting with socks, more training, and most importantly what she would do mentally when she hit the wall with several miles remaining.
Eight days prior to today's 30th running of the St. George Marathon, the race took on new meaning for her.
"When my running partner was reminding me to stay hydrated this week I didn't think she would be talking about replacing tears," Morgan said.
Morgan's sister-in-law, Joyce Morgan Riding, 25, died after a two-year battle with cancer.
"Before, the focus to get me past that point was more about taking in Goo at the right time and drinking enough water," she said. "There is definitely a new thought and this (running the race) is nothing compared with what she has done and compared with what her husband has done and what he will be doing in the future."
Funeral services for Riding were held Friday in Payson, and Morgan and at least a dozen immediate and extended family members drove to St. George. In all, three family members will run in the race.
Riding was married two years to her husband, Stuart, when she was diagnosed with cancer. Aggressive chemotherapy and radiation sent the cancer into remission. During remission she defied medical odds by giving birth to their son, Jacob, who is now nine months.
Shortly after his birth, Riding's cancer returned and she died Sept. 28, surrounded by her family in Irving, Texas.
"I think watching her, especially in these last two years, I have learned a lot about perseverance and faith and selflessness," said Morgan, who is married to Joyce's brother, Stephen.
Using some of those same characteristics she learned from her sister-in-law will help her get through the race, and now Heartbreak Hill just outside of Veyo will be a mere speed bump.
"When you feel like those times you're putting just one foot in front of the other (to get through it) and you're tired, definitely it's nothing to what she's been through, It's an inspiration," Morgan said. " ... She never sat down and threw her hands in the and felt sorry for herself, but she moved forward."
Failure to finish is not an option."I think about it now and how silly it would be to quit a race when Joyce didn't quit anything when it was so much harder," she said.