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.
Meet Julie Weiss, the woman who ran 52 marathons in 52 weeks, after her father passed away from stage 4 pancreatic cancer, only 35 days after being diagnosed.
It seemed fitting to use running to honor her late father’s memory. Before Julie started running she was overweight, on antidepressants and could barely run around the block. As a single mother she was determined to make a change and picked up running as a release. She started with slow jogs on the beach, gradually working her way up to longer distances. A year later, she ran her first marathon at the LA Marathon. Although the race did not go as well as expected, she was determined to try another.
Running brought her a sense of passion and purpose and she knew she couldn’t stop. She set her mind to qualifying for the Boston Marathon. Her dad was her biggest cheerleader along the way, and would call to see how she did after every race. One week after Julie’s father passed away, she qualified for the Boston Marathon after 19 attempts. “He was the wind at my back, and I couldn’t have done it without him”, she recalls. After running the Boston Marathon, Julie needed to do something dramatic to raise awareness, so she set up a blog under the alias, Marathon Goddess, and set out to run 52 marathons in 52 weeks with a goal of raising $1,000,000 for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.
Julie finally got the attention she was looking for. Her boyfriend David Levine, author of the The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Marathon Training and running coach for the Los Angeles Running Club, introduced her to Gwendolen Twist, producer of the Spirit of the Marathon II. Gwendolen just happened to be in the midst of casting for the film, and was looking for passionate runners like Julie who had a story to tell. “Julie has a personality and charisma that people can relate to. Sometimes you have to do something crazy to get people’s attention, and I believed that she could do it,” she recalls.
Julie began her journey at the 2012 Rome Marathon that was featured in the Spirit of the Marathon II documentary, and continued to run a marathon a week for a year. Her inspirational story was splashed across prime-time television shows like the Today Show, and in publications like O, The Oprah Magazine. Although Julie did not reach her $1,000,000 goal, she raised over $230,000.
1,362.4 miles and 52 marathons later, Julie crossed the LA Marathon finish line on March 17, 2013.
Julie’s story has inspired many runners, including Debbie Jett, who was featured on our Rock Blog last month. After watching Spirit of the Marathon II, Debbie Jett posted a picture of her ticket stub on Facebook saying that the film inspired her to sign up for her first marathon at the 2014 Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon & ½ Marathon.
Julie caught wind of this, and decided to surprise Debbie by running the last few miles of the marathon with her. Little did they know, they were both dedicating miles to family and friends taken by cancer, which made their bond so much stronger.
Not only were runners impressed by Julie’s unparalleled accomplishment, but The Lazarex Cancer Foundation’s Team for Life, recruited Julie to serve as Brand Ambassador for their endurance program. Julie and Debbie will be running together again as teammates on Team for Life, the official charity partner at Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon on Sunday, October 5th 2014.
To learn more about Julie’s journey and the people she’s meet along the way, look out for her book, We Got This, available in 2015 and support her cause by making a donation to lazarex.org.