Father runs half marathon in Nashville in memory of his daughter

Posted at 9:02 AM, Apr 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-28 11:23:37-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Every marathon runner wants a pair of sneakers that can take them to the finish line without a problem.

For Dean Ives of Hendersonville, a different kind of race lead him to sell sneakers at Fleet Feet and become an unofficial expert in the subject.

When Dean's daughter Sydney was 9 years old, doctors found an inoperable tumor in her brain. Dean's family was faced with a race against time.

"We were just in a whole different season," Dean explained. "We called it our new normal."

Soon after her diagnosis, the Ives family relocated to St. Jude Children's Hospital and lived at the Target House for three months.

At first Dean said he was "going crazy" dealing with his daughter's treatments.

"We would have our treatments in the morning and our therapies."

But then he found a release.

"I found that my healing was in running."

When he's working at Fleet Feet, Dean feels closer to his daughter. He started at the store in August and he began training runners this year. For the sixteen weeks leading up to the St. Jude Rock N' Roll Marathon, Dean was a coach. He used lessons he's learned as a grieving parent to push his team.

"Don't think too far ahead," he told his runners. "That's the thing that somebody told me when Sydney was sick. Just enjoy the moment."

On Saturday, Dean ran the half marathon in Nashville in weather he said was heaven sent. At times his mind wandered, but Sydney kept him on track.

"People may think it's goofy, but I'll see little things, like teal blue butterflies...I just take that as a little wink from Sydney and her just cheering me on."

Dean said it was heartwarming that every runner in the 5K, half marathon and marathon gave their money in the form of registration to St. Jude for kids like his daughter.

"These kids fighting, they're just going day-by-day and they're just finding joy in the journey."

To donate to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital click here.