There were so many tough days for Carolynne Gilbert in her eight-year battle against breast cancer, but rarely was it too tough for her to show her support for Colby.
Now that she is gone, Colby Gilbert is making sure his mom is still with him, at every race, at every training run, or just about at every other place in a busy high school senior’s life.
Run fast. Run hard. Run fearless.
“She always told me that before every race,” Colby said.
It’s now his motto in life.
Skyview’s Colby Gilbert, one of the best distance runners in the state, is racing in memory of his mother this season. Carolynne died Feb. 7 at the age of 41. Running is part of the healing process for Colby.
“It really helped me to stay on top of things,” he said. “When it happened, the little things like keeping my room clean or staying motivated in school, those were difficult. When I ran, it helped me get it back together. Running has helped me a lot through the whole process.”
Chris Gilbert met his wife in college. Both runners, they had a lot in common. Their children, Colby and Chanse, an eighth-grader, are athletes as well.
“Running is a big part of our family,” Colby said. “She really loved watching me run.”
It was Carolynne who insisted her husband and sons maintain a regular schedule, a regular life, no matter what she was dealing with at any particular time during her fight. The battle, after all, lasted almost half of Colby’s life and more than half of Chanse’s life.
“It was kind of the new normal. I was so young when it was ‘normal.’ Things were good one week, not so good one week,” Colby said. “That was normal-ish. It was definitely challenging.
“We had to do more stuff around the house to help her out, but she tried really hard to keep things normal. Not just for us, but for her, too.”
A regular day for the Gilbert family is an active day.
Colby, born with two fingers on his left hand, has always been an athlete, never using his hand as an excuse to opt out of an activity.
He played soccer, then found cross country as an seventh-grader when the family lived in Minnesota.
The family moved to Vancouver prior to Colby’s eighth-grade year, and he has been impressing coaches in Clark County ever since.
Now, he is having a grand season in his final year of high school. In the fall, he finished second in the Class 4A state cross country meet. This spring in track and field, Gilbert has the best time in the 3,200 meters among all Class 4A runners in the state.
It starts with training, of course. He is more consistent in his workouts. He hired a personal trainer. He is on a runner’s diet, figuring out what works for him. Last week, he won the 3,000 at the prestigious Oregon Relays at Hayward Field in Eugene. His goal is to win a state championship.
Colby’s mother is never far from his thoughts.
“This season is really important to me. I wanted to do really well, take the next step,” Gilbert said. “I’m really bummed that she couldn’t see me do that.”
Yet, he is inspired by what she was able to witness. There were times when the family used a recreational vehicle to go to Colby’s events. That way, Carolynne could have a “base” she could stay in all day, then come out to watch Colby’s races.
“She did everything she could to suck it up and go,” Chris Gilbert said of his wife. “It was pretty impressive.”
Carolynne spend almost all of her last four years in treatment. She had eight different chemotherapy treatments. There was brain surgery. Lung surgery.
That toughness inspired her family.
“She tried her best to do everything she could,” Colby said. “That’s all anyone could ask.”
Colby Gilbert is strong. He is a solid student and a member of Skyview’s student government. His father says Colby is too strong, sometimes. The dad does not have to wonder where Colby got that trait.
“I gotta give credit to his mom. I never feel incredible. I always felt she was,” Chris said.
Carolynne’s time on earth is done, but her family keeps on running, keeps moving forward. Just what she wanted for Chris, Colby, and Chanse.
Colby’s senior year is nearing its end. He expects to run for the University of Washington in the fall, but he still has a high school goal to accomplish.
“Before every race, I think of my mom cheering me on,” he said.