Fifty-two marathons in fifty-two weeks? Seems nearly impossible. But not for one Los Angeles resident.
Julie Weiss’s road to “52 in 52” started in 2008. With encouragement from her father, Maurice, she decided to train for the Boston Marathon, one of the oldest and best-known racing events. Maurice was her biggest supporter, determined to see his daughter qualified for the race. “We were going to go to Boston together and he was going to cheer me on,” Julie recalls. “I called him after every marathon.”
Over the next two years, Julie ran nineteen marathons in preparation for the Boston Marathon qualification. But In October 2010, Maurice was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Undeterred by his illness, Maurice insisted Julie pursue her dream. “I told my dad, ‘You’re going to go to with me and I’m going to qualify!’”
Unfortunately, Maurice passed away one week before the qualifying race, only 35 days afterbeing diagnosed. “I had no idea about pancreatic cancer, or how severe it was. But on race day, I knew he was there with me. He had the best seat in the house…my heart.”
After completing the Boston Marathon, Julie knew there was something more to be done. Researching pancreatic cancer, she discovered it is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States, but also the least funded for research.
Through her research, Julie found the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. The number one charity for pancreatic cancer, Julie met with the organization and was thrilled by their excitement and support. It was here the idea for “52 For You” was born. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network was able to support and fund travel expenses, in part through their Team Hope Marathon Program.
Julie took the name “Marathon Goddess,” but she’s quick to point out its true meaning. “It’s not about me!” she assures. “It’s a name that allows me to encourage others to find their inner god and goddess. People will see me running and say, ‘Hey, it’s the Marathon Goddess!’ and I say, ‘No, you are a marathon goddess!’”
With the help of her fiancé, David, Julie’s first marathon of 52 started in Rome, Italy on March 18, 2012. It was here that the documentary Spirit of the Marathon II was filmed, featuring Julie and her story. The film will be released in June of this year.
After Rome, it was one down, 51 to go. And it hasn’t been easy, especially considering Julie continues to work as a fulltime real estate accountant in L.A. “It’s a rigorous schedule: I leave my office on a Friday or Saturday morning; travel to a different city or state or even country; run a marathon on Sunday; get home Sunday night; be in the office by 9 a.m. Then the rest of the week is all about recovery. I get to sit at my job, which is nice, but it’s about eating good food, stretching, surrounding myself with positive people to get my spirits up.”
“But I do get tired!” she’s quick to point out. “I suffer some aches and pains, but I have a fantastic sports physician. I go to the spa a couple times a week to recuperate. I also mediate; it keeps me balanced.”
It’s also the people she encounters that keep Julie’s spirits up and gives her journey perspective. Dedicating each marathon to someone affected by pancreatic cancer, Julie makes sure to never lose sight of the everyday fighters. “When I’m running my marathons, my battle is nothing compared to these people who are fighting for their lives.”
Many of these fighters have left a lasting impression. Julie met Paul Perkovic during a race in her home state of California. He was suffering from Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. “He was very high-energy, a fun guy,” Julie remembers. “He was so excited about my journey. He ran the last 0.2 miles with me; we crossed the finish line together. It was a moment I’ll remember forever. He passed away three months after that marathon. But for that moment, we had created some hope and light in this dark world of pancreatic cancer.”
Julie’s eleventh marathon was in Kona, Hawaii. She affectionately refers to this race as “Eleven, like running in heaven!”
“The course is kind of epic,” Julie says. “It makes you feel like a rock star!” Even more than the course, it’s the Aloha Spirit that keeps her coming back to Kona. “It’s in the people who run the marathon, who live there, the support crew. It’s so welcoming. Not to mention the venue, which is breathtaking. Definitely the location, but more so, the people.”
Not only has Julie been running the marathons, she’s also handled most of her own PR and organized fundraising in her spare time. Accepting donations from $5 to $50,000, she’s raised over $175,000 during her journey, relying heavily on the power of social media to connect with individuals and organizations.
Julie’s final marathon was on March 17, 2013, in L.A. How does she plan to celebrate? “Sleep!” she exclaims. “Treating myself to sleeping in!”
Despite the end of this chapter, Julie’s story is far from over. Her new goal: 52 more marathons by 2020. “I am still running alongside Pancreatic Cancer Action Network with our hope to double the survival rate of pancreatic cancer by 2020.”
An inspiring figure, Julie continues to share her positive attitude and sincere spirit. And she encourages others to find a cause of their own. “Follow your dreams; follow what’s in your heart. If it resonates in your soul, then go for it. Life is short. This is our chance to help other people. It may be hard, but don’t give up. It’s a journey. People focus on the final finish line, but the beauty is found along the way, in the journey.”
Follow Julie’s continued adventures and make a donation to the cause on her website: http://marathongoddess.com/.Story by: Dustin Diehl
Copyright Kona Marathon, All rights reserved