Ever wonder who’s standing next to you in your corral at the start line, or cheering you on when you’re about to give up during a race? As runners we all have a story, a motivation to run whether it’s a personal challenge, to stay fit, bond with friends, raise money for charity, or work through a difficult time.
What if someone told you that you had only a 40% chance of living?
When 45 year old Debbie Jett was diagnosed with advanced stage III Colon Cancer in 2008, things couldn’t get much worse.
Just two weeks after learning she had cancer, her best friend Jan Jay was diagnosed with the same illness. Together Debbie and Jan vowed to remain strong through their chemotherapy treatments. “I promised God that if I had more time on this earth I would honor and appreciate my health.”
When Jan passed away one year later, Debbie was broken. “I had an 80% chance of the cancer coming back and just waited to die”, she recalls. Then she remembered the vow she took with Jan when they first began treatment, to live life like each day was the last. As a tribute to Jan and her love of running, Debbie decided to join the West Coast Road Runners. Since then, she has completed 19 half marathons, and has donated each medal earned to someone battling colon cancer.
In June 2013, Debbie attended the Spirit of the Marathon II movie premiere in San Diego, that follows the lives of 7 runners and their journey to the Rome Marathon. She was mesmerized by the runners and their stories, in particular the story of Julie Weiss, who began her quest to run 52 marathons in 52 weeks to honor the memory of her father who died of pancreatic cancer. Debbie recalls, “After the movie I was able to meet Julie. I loved her will for life, her passion for running and her desire to cure cancer.” With so much in common, they became fast friends.
Inspired by Julie’s tenacity, Debbie decided to sign up for the Suja Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon, her very first marathon!
Debbie got the surprise of a lifetime when Julie told her she would meet at mile 24 of the marathon. “My thought’s were “are you freaking kidding me?” That is AWESOME!!”
As Debbie approached mile 24 on June 1st, 2014, Julie ran out to greet her. They ran those last 2.2 emotional miles together, laughing, crying and holding hands through the finish line.
Debbie concludes, “Running healed my soul, running gave me joy again and the Spirit of the Marathon II guided me to live my dream”.