On March 17, 2013, Julie Weiss, a 42 year old mother of two from Santa Monica, crossed the finish line of the L.A. Marathon. But this was no ordinary finish… it was the 52nd marathon Julie had completed in the last 52 weeks, marking the triumphant culmination of an epic 1,362.4 mile quest she embarked on a year ago in honor of her father who died of pancreatic cancer. The story of what led this Woman You Should Know to her ambitious mission is as extraordinary as her recent accomplishments.
Known as the Marathon Goddess, Julie’s 52 in 52 journey kicked off on March 18, 2012 in Italy at the Rome Marathon. She spent the next year running in marathons all over the world, dedicating each race to someone affected by pancreatic cancer, “…because my fight was nothing compared to what these people had to go through. They are my heroes.” In every 26.2 mile stretch she tackled, Julie was also running to raise money for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, a national patient-based advocacy organization.
You might be as awe struck as we were to know that Julie did all of this while holding down a full time job as an accountant. She explains on her Marathon Goddess site, “I would leave my office on a Friday or Saturday, travel to a different city, state or even country, run a marathon on Sunday and fly back home to get to work Monday morning… almost every weekend waking up at 3:30 in the morning to get to the starting line.”
In a word, “WOW!”
How It All Began
Julie wasn’t always a runner… far from it, in fact. “I was overweight, on antidepressants and I could barely run around the block. I was a young mom and had battled some very dark moments. Since I started running I am no longer taking any medication and I have lost 20 pounds. Running saved my life.”
Just five years ago, on March 2, 2008, Julie ran her first marathon, the L.A. Marathon. Post-race, she admits to having made all the beginner mistakes. That caused her to suffer a lot of “ouch”-worthy pain and subsequently, swear off marathons in favor of 10Ks instead. But two months later, Julie ran another marathon and then another, with her father, Maurice Weiss, becoming her biggest fan and cheerleader along the way.
As her passion for running grew, Julie and Maurice set a collective goal: she would qualify for the Boston Marathon and he would go to see her run. Julie attempted to qualify for Boston 19 times. She shared, “Every time I completed a marathon I would call my father and let him know how I did. He was still proud of me, even if it was my slowest time. He always encouraged me to keep going and so I did.”
In October 2010, in the midst of her tireless efforts to try to accomplish that Boston goal for the both of them, Julie’s father was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. She was devastated, but her father urged her to continue to train, to work and to go on with life as usual. It was hard, but she pushed though as he wished.
“I know he was there with me, he was the wind at my back and had the best seat in the house, my heart.”
On December 5, 2010, Julie finally qualified for the Boston Marathon and made it in 3:47. Her news came just 35 days after her father’s diagnosis, but it was too late. Sadly, Maurice had passed away the week before on November 24.
As planned, Julie ran the Boston Marathon in 2011 and says of her dad not getting the chance to see her run it, “I know he was there with me, he was the wind at my back and had the best seat in the house, my heart.”
Following that race, Julie dove deep into researching the disease that claimed her father’s life. She found that pancreatic cancer was the 4th leading cause of cancer death, yet was the least funded for research. This was unacceptable to her and she knew she had to do something dramatic to raise awareness, hope and money… something that centered on her love of running, her love of life and her love for her father.
That’s when the idea was born and Julie set out to run 52 marathons in 52 weeks to raise $1,000,000 for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.
What’s Next For Julie?
To date, Julie has raised $179,000 for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network through her Marathon Goddess site.
As PanCAN’s goal is to double the pancreatic cancer patient survival rate by 2020, Julie has promised to run another 52 marathons by 2020.
“Now I am running with a purpose, to fight the good fight against pancreatic cancer. It has become my mission, and I will not stop until we have found a cure.” – Julie Weiss