Debbie Calimano’s headband read, “I Run For Those Who Can’t.”
The 51-year-old New Jersey flight attendant knocked off her 14th marathon at the Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Marathon. It was her third in honor of friends who have passed away from cancer. This time, she paid respects to Karen Ostlund, who was 45 years old when she died last May.
When she was hurting on her 26.2-mile tour of The Big Easy, Calimano thought of Ostlund’s dignified cancer battle.
“I remember one day I asked how she was doing,” recalled Calimano. “She’s was pulling hair out of her head (from the effects of chemotherapy) and said, ‘Oh, I’m OK.’ I figure 26 miles is nothing compared to the struggle she went through.”
In January 2004, Calimano underwent surgery to repair a herniated disc, having a cadaver bone inserted near the top of her spine. Barely nine months later, she ran her first 26.2-miler, the New York City Marathon.
Said Calimano, who finished New Orleans in 4 hours, 24 minutes, 8 seconds, “I like to be an inspiration for other people to run.”