A rising phoenix: Julia Miller

Running community rallied behind one of its own

Julia Miller is what you might call a very involved runner.

Aside from competing in races, she contributes to several local running-related causes. She’s an “angel” athlete for myTEAM TRIUMPH, which matches differently abled people with runners who push them through a race; a coach for the nonprofit program Girls on the Run; a pacer (someone who helps another runner stay motivated and maintain a certain speed) in races including Her Madison; a member of the Fellow Flowers organization; a run group leader for She RUNS This Town/Moms RUN This Town; and a brand ambassador for Madison Mini-Marathon and 5K, Knuckle Lights, Skirt Sports, Another Mother Runner and Her Madison half-marathon.

So when a house fire left Miller and her family with nothing but the clothes on their backs, the running community came running. A rising phoenix: Julia Miller

On that night of March 7, 2018, Miller headed home from karate practice with her three kids. Moments later, she stood in her driveway calling 911 as smoke billowed from their home. While no one was injured, the road to getting their lives back on track was a long one. Thanks to family, friends, neighbors, their church, a successful GoFundMe campaign and insurance, the Millers recently moved back into their renovated house in Fitchburg. “Those first couple weeks, living in the hotel and then temporary housing, my whole focus was trying to keep my kids’ schedules and routines as normal as possible,” says Miller, whose children are 12, 11 and 9. “We were trying to stay positive for them. Like, ‘Look, nobody got hurt.’ There are people in this world who are so much worse off and sick and in Third World countries. We’re OK.”

But after some time, Miller says, people started saying to her, “You probably need to go for a run, huh?” To which Miller responded, “Yeah, I do! But I don’t have anything. I don’t have shoes or clothes or anything to be able to do that.”

Not for long, that is. The running community rallied behind their fellow runner. Endurance House donated a $100 gift card. Fleet Feet Sports gave her a new pair of shoes. Skirt Sports sent her a box full of running gear. Knuckle Lights sent her two replacement lights. The Berbee Derby organizers gave her a huge stack of long-sleeved shirts. Girls on the Run waived the fee for Miller’s daughter to participate in a race. Madison Mini-Marathon put out a call to its followers about donating medals and T-shirts from the years Miller ran the Madison Mini to replace the ones that were lost in the fire. Mel Charbonneau of Fellow Flowers gave Miller a box of shirts, a sweatshirt and many of the company’s signature clip-on flowers, which symbolize that you’re never running alone.A rising phoenix: Julia Miller

The running community showed up. And Miller was told that would happen.

“Mel told that to me. Other runners in the community have told me that. Like, ‘This is why everyone wants to help you – because of how much you do for other people, among women, among runners,’ ” Miller says.

Madison has a tight-knit running community, she says.

“It’s so inclusive. It doesn’t matter how fast you are, how slow you think you are, what you look like, what your size and shape is — they want you running. They want you to have good shoes on your feet and the gear you need and the training plan to get out there and run.”

And what goes around comes around, in this case. Just as Miller helps athletes through races as part of myTEAM TRIUMPH, the running community kept Miller on her running path, too.

“There’s just so much to be thankful for,” Miller says.