Marathon runner Julie Weiss crosses the finish line Dec. 5, 2010 in Sacramento, Calif., to qualify for her first Boston Marathon. She qualified a week after her father, Maurice, succumbed to pancreatic cancer. (Photo courtesy Julie Weiss)
A trip to Hawaii changed her life.
Now, she wants to save lives while aiming for her goal of running 52 marathons in 52 weeks.
“It was in 2007, I was on antidepressants, and I was overweight,” said Santa Monica, Calif., resident Julie Weiss. “I went to Hawaii on a family vacation. I went out there and started running on the beach. I got back, and I found I didn’t need the antidepressants anymore.”
When she returned to California, she started running on the beach with her four-legged running mate (a mix-breed dog), and in 2008, she ran her first marathon.
“It changed my whole life,” Weiss said. “I got more connected to my body. … I finally found my calling.”
But when Weiss returns to Hawaii to participate in Sunday’s UCC Coffee Kunitake Farms Kona Marathon, her inspiration will come from a life lost.
Weiss’s commitment to running had an unexpected benefit. She grew closer to her father, Maurice.
“There was nothing like the joy he had when he saw me run,” Weiss said. “After I started running, our relationship got closer. After every race, I would call him.”
But on Oct. 18, 2010, the Weiss family’s lives changed forever. Maurice was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer. On Nov. 24, 2010, Maurice’s battle was over.
“He always wanted me to qualify for the Boston Marathon,” Weiss said. “It took me 19 times to qualify. Every time I would call him, I would say, ‘Didn’t make it yet.’
“I qualified a week after he died. It was kind of bittersweet.”
As she learned about pancreatic cancer, she became aware of an imbalance.
“It’s the fourth-leading cause of cancer death, and it’s also the least-funded,” Weiss said. “The thing is, it’s because a lot of people, they get this cancer, and they’re gone so quickly. There are some survivors, a lot of them are doing something. But there’s not a lot of survivors out there.”
According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, pancreatic cancer is a difficult type of cancer to diagnose, and the late diagnosis means it is often inoperable and untreatable in patients once the diagnosis is made.
Such was the case for Weiss’ father.
Now, Weiss wants to do something about it. She is participating in her 11th straight marathon, and she has a quest to finish 52 marathons in the calendar year. Along the way, she is raising money for pancreatic cancer research.
She seeks sponsors through her website, marathongoddess.com, to raise money for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. She also seeks corporate sponsorships, and she enjoys speaking to people about her goal.“Mostly it is about reaching people and talking to people,” Weiss said. “That’s where most of the sponsors come in.”
“I’d love to get Wells Fargo on board, or some other big-name sponsors. Hopefully, we will as we get bigger. I’m very interested in getting sponsors involved.”
Weiss’ quest has taken her literally all over the country. In the last few weeks, she has gone from Idaho to San Diego to New York to Minnesota. She was scheduled to arrive on the Big Island Friday, and her next marathon will be June 30 in Colorado.
But she is not a professional runner. She is a single mother balancing adult children, the aforementioned dog, a Monday-through-Friday accountant job and a fiancee around her transcontinental travel.
In fact, after Sunday’s race, she will spend the day on the Big Island before taking a red-eye back to California.
How does she do it?
“I don’t have the luxury of going out and celebrating,” she said. “I have a protein drink right afterwards. Put on compression tights to help with the blood flow. I stretch in airports and airplanes and parking lots. I run in water. I have one of the best physical therapists in the world who checks for things every week. And eating is really important.”
She cited an understanding employer and compassionate children, 19 and 23, for giving her the ability to fulfill her quest.
Anyone interested in sponsoring Weiss may do so through her website.