Santa Monica Marathon Goddess Runs on a Mission This Weekend
More than 22,000 runners will cross the start line for the 38th annual Los Angeles Marathon this Sunday, trying to finish the fastest 26.2-mile race. One of these athletes is a wonderful woman named Julie Weiss. And incredibly, this will be her 116th marathon.
Julie, a 52-year-old Santa Monica real estate accountant, first started running 15 years ago to improve her physical and mental health. She was a single mother at the time, taking antidepressants regularly. However, what started as a healthy hobby turned into a life-changing journey as she was able to discover her true calling.
“I am not ashamed to admit that I needed antidepressants, it is quite possible that they saved my life, because at that time I was in a severe depression. But I had to find another way, and when I started running, I found that I didn’t need them. Running picked me up and I just kept going.
“I lost 35 pounds and my whole life changed and then turned into this journey of love,” says Julie.
In addition to the obvious, immediate rewards, the transformation in her life had many additional benefits, including a greatly improved relationship with her father, Maurice.
“We didn’t have a particularly strong relationship when I was growing up, but when I started running, I felt love from him that I hadn’t received before. He became my biggest fan, whereas he used to be my biggest critic,” says Julie.
Unfortunately, Maurice only saw the first two years of Julie’s new, booming running career as he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died in 2010. He was 75 years old. At the time, Julie was trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Unlike many other major marathons, including Tokyo, London, Berlin, Chicago, and New York, runners must complete a pre-certified 26.2 mile race in a set time based on your age to compete.
But she managed to qualify. And as soon as Julie completed the Boston race, it became clear that her mission in life was just beginning.
“After I ran the Boston Marathon, I realized that I need to do more to raise awareness, I need to do more to honor him, his memory, and for many other people affected by this disease,” says Julie.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that more than 64,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year, and more than 50,000 people will die. A recent ACS report concludes that the overall risk of cancer is declining, but it remains the second leading cause of death for Americans after cardiovascular disease. Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cancer in both men and women. The five-year relative survival rate is now 12 percent, up 1 percent from last year.
At this point, Julie accepted a seemingly impossible task. When she crossed the finish line of the 2013 Los Angeles Marathon, she accomplished the astounding feat of running 52 marathons in 52 weeks to raise money for pancreatic cancer research. While still working full time.
It was 10 years and over 3,000 miles ago, and in memory of this – And To celebrate the fact that she has raised over $1 million, she will once again take part in the Los Angeles Sunday Marathon. Pancreatic cancer survivors and supporters will gather to greet Julie as she crosses the finish line and at the Hirschberg Foundation’s Purple People Party support station near Mile 21.
Julie got engaged to her trainer David Levine in 2012, and in May 2013 she was named Woman of the Year in the 28th Senate District.
Julie has become a grandmother, and although she doesn’t run much, her love for the sport remains unwavering. “I don’t run a marathon a week, that’s for sure,” she laughs. “But last year I was going to do 12 races in 12 months, but because I’m human, I ended up getting injured. So in the end I only ran five and the rest were half marathons, five and ten kilometers.
“But I kept going, I just changed it a bit and race number 12 will be this Sunday,” and even though this interview was over the phone, you could still hear her smile.
Julie continues to raise money for pancreatic cancer research, and each year she trains and raises funds with the Hirshberg Training Team, a running program to prepare runners and walkers for the Los Angeles Marathon.
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