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Chris Justice Photography

In 2001, Orem resident Pam Hansen began exercising in an attempt to shed the sting of losing her second child along with the weight she’d gained after losing the first.

One year later and 100 pounds lighter, she crossed the finish line of the Deseret News Marathon.

“After my first marathon, I thought, ‘This is so fun to cross the finish line, and it would be a neat way to give back to the hospital,’” Hansen said.

Over the next three years, Hansen accomplished two of her dreams: organizing a 5K race to raise funds and writing a book.

She chose the title “Running With Angels” for both the book and the race.

Hansen hosted the first-ever Running With Angels 5K in 2005, and she donated all the proceeds to the women and children services at various hospitals in Utah Valley as well as “Angel Watch,” a program designed to ease the pain of a child’s death.

Approximately 1,100 runners and walkers conquered the 10th Annual Running With Angels 5K on May 17.

“There are families who have recently lost a baby or a loved one, and they’re running in their honor,” Hansen said. “This event is such a positive way to channel their grief.”

The Utah Valley Intermountain Foundation has taken ownership of the race, but Hansen continues to be actively involved.

“I really enjoy standing at the finish line and cheering people on,” Hansen said.

The atmosphere of the Running With Angels race is different from the typical 5K. Instead of creating a rowdy environment to fuel the competitors’ energy, they release white homing pigeons in honor of those who’ve lost loved ones.

Prior to the first race, Shadow Mountain published Hansen’s first book “Running With Angels.”

The book compares life’s trials to a marathon. Hansen illustrates the strength she gained through weight loss after enduring the death of two of her children, the debilitating diseases of two others and her life as an overweight mom.

“I kept a journal and continued to write about the tough times,” Hansen said. “I didn’t start out to write a book, but as I wrote, I was thinking, ‘This would be a neat story to tell my grandchildren someday.’ ”

When Hansen received thousands of emails, letters and phone calls from readers who said they related to her story, she decided to write, “Finding the Angel Within,” a book about self-worth.

“It’s pretty fascinating to study about the way we see ourselves and how linked it is between body, mind and spirit,” Hansen said.

Hansen continues to write on a blog dedicated to parents who have experienced the death of a child.

“I hope when people go to my blog, they can feel better about their life and their circumstances,” Hansen said. “I think when we share part of ourselves and our story that’s so personal, people are more willing to share their story.”

Though Hansen continually struggles with her weight and misses her two angel children, she said adversity has blessed her life.

“I think adversity can be used two different ways: It can be used to get us down or to strengthen us. I really feel like my family was strengthened.”

Megan Marsden Christensen is an intern with the Deseret News writing for the Faith & Family section. She recently graduated from BYU-Idaho with a bachelor's degree in communication.