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Mom’s Memory Drives Milford Marathon Runner

Like many marathon runners, Milford resident Brian Andersen has a lot of time to think when he's out pounding the pavement. After successfully completing three different courses, including last year's Boston Marathon, this year's training runs leading up to Patriots' Day will be spent thinking about his mother, Nancy.

Nancy Andersen was a financial planner who grew up in Philadelphia. She married Brian's father, Joe, and moved to northeast Ohio where she raised Brian and his brother Eric. 

"She was a great mom," Brian Andersen told me. "She was there at all of our sporting events and involved in all of our activities. We went skiing together as a family. We had a small summer house in Western New York and we would boat and ski out on the water."

Mixed in with the happy memories will be the thoughts of the October day in 2010 when his family's life was turned upside down. That's the day his mother took her own life at the age of 54.

"What we didn't know, until it was too late, was that she had dealt with a lifetime's worth of depression," Andersen said. "For my brother's sake and mine, she did a good job hiding it and not letting it affect our lives. But she struggled with depression multiple times throughout her life."

Andersen, 32, said it's hard to think back to times when it seemed like his mother was simply in a bad mood and knows now there was a lot more driving her anger or frustration or sadness. He said he goes through periods when he doesn't think about it as much, but then he'll see a news report or read a story or overhear someone talk about a suicide and it brings him back to a place of deep emotion.

He also thinks about Nancy when he holds his five-month old daughter, Emma.

"It's hard to deal with, she will never know who her grandmother was," Andersen said. "She has a grandmother now, my step-mom Debbie, but I know my mother always wanted to have grandchildren. She would have loved to meet Emma. It's hard, but you just deal with it, you just move on."

With the help and support of his family, including his wife Amanda, Andersen decided to turn his grief and his love for running into a means to help others deal with the overwhelming depression that took his mother.

"I've realized that depression and mental illness, it's very much in your DNA," he said. "There is a side of it that is in you, that you can't control. I don't feel that I struggle with it, but I feel it exists in my family. I don't want my daughter, or anyone else, to have to go through this alone."

Editor's note: For more on Brian Andersen's story, turn to page 28.


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