From activists and fitness experts to trendsetters and DIY gurus, SunglassWarehouse.com is honored to highlight the biggest noisemakers around. Whether inspiring others, making waves in their industry, or living life to the fullest, we’ve got All Eyes On people making a BIG impact. Take a look at our latest spotlight below, and be sure to check back every month for more interviews in this star series.
This August, our All Eyes On series highlights the Marathon Goddess herself, Julie Weiss. After losing her father to pancreatic cancer in 2010, this 43-year-old single mom set out to run 52 marathons in 52 weeks to raise $1,000,000 for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network — that’s 1,362.4 miles total! Julie’s inspirational story is an act of love for running, her father, and those in the pancreatic cancer community.
Get to know Julie below, and grab advice on how to become a runner with a passion:
Can you tell us a bit more about yourself, your family, and any hobbies outside of running?
Julie: I am so blessed to have two awesome adult children: my daughter Samantha, age 20, my son Frank, who is 25 — and my furry, four-legged running partner, Jessie. There is nothing I cherish more than having the family together, being healthy, being happy, and having fun. I live close to the beach because I love the ocean. If I am not running, I am definitely taking a walk to the ocean and walking on the beach. The ocean energy and the sunshine are important for me to thrive. I absolutely love Kauai. I feel so at home there. I am so excited that I will be running the Kauai Marathon on September 1st.
Not only did I run 1,362.4 miles, but I also work 9-5 as an accountant for a commercial real estate company. For most people who have lives outside of running, running has become my life. I love to run, but I don’t have to be running; for me it’s about motivating, inspiring, supporting, or just plain having fun with runners. I started running at 37, and now at 43 and 78 marathons later, I am happy to say I have finally found my groove.
What motivated you to start running and then progress to running a marathon?
Julie: In 2007, I was a young mom, overweight, and on antidepressants. I knew I needed to do something to change my life. Running gave me the answer. At first I could barely run around the block. I actually started running with my dog. Soon one of my good friends asked if I would like to train for a triathlon, so I did. Then I did a half-marathon, then eventually a marathon, and I was hooked. I set my sights on qualifying for the Boston Marathon as well.
You mentioned that you made some beginner mistakes when running your first marathon. Can you elaborate on these?
Julie: In my earlier marathons, I made the biggest traditional mistake of going out too fast. I would deplete my energy and run out of fuel at the end. I didn’t get enough volume of training in, and I didn’t have my amazing coach, David Levine, who coaches USA Marathon Training and co-wrote The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Marathon Training. After I hired him, I knocked off almost 20 minutes from my best time, and after 19 attempts, I finally qualified for the Boston Marathon.
You ran 52 marathons in 52 weeks. What was your greatest motivation for tackling this challenge, and how does it feel to accomplish such an incredible and inspiring task?
Julie: The motivation started when I qualified for the Boston Marathon on December 5th, 2010. However, it was bittersweet because when I crossed that finish line, it was one week after my father — my biggest fan — had passed away from pancreatic cancer, just 35 days after diagnosis. I was devastated yet motivated and determined. I knew I had to something dramatic to raise money and awareness for pancreatic cancer research. This is something that is so urgent and so much bigger then just me or the marathons. This is about the people fighting for their lives, the survivors, those taken, the caregivers, and the families. The ENTIRE pancreatic cancer community was my motivation. They are my true heroes. I have learned so much about life from them.
When I finished my 52nd marathon at the Los Angeles Marathon on March 17, 2013, it was surreal. I was surrounded by my family, my friends, my neighbors, all of my supporters from The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, and tons of cameras from CNN, The Today Show, etc. I even crossed with Lupe Ramiro, a pancreatic cancer SURVIVOR. It is hard to put it into words — it was truly an overwhelming experience. It just goes to show that when you do what you love and never give up, miracles do happen!
What’s your favorite city you’ve run a marathon in?
Julie: Rome was unbelievably beautiful. It was the first of the 52 where the Spirit of the Marathon II was filmed. I was honored to be one of the seven featured runners in that movie. Can you imagine being at the starting line at the Coliseum? It was so beautiful — so much history there. Washington, DC, was also amazing at the Marine Corps marathon. It was so inspirational running through the National Mall and having all of the Marines’ support. I also love the marathons in Hawaii. There are so many great ones that it’s hard to choose. I do love the big-city marathons, but there have also been some smaller hidden gems that I have cherished as well.
If you can offer one piece of advice to someone who doubts they can run a marathon, what would it be?
Julie: You can do anything you put your mind to. It is important to start your training SLOWLY, at low intensity. So many people make the mistake of doing all their training at the same intensity and burning themselves out, and that is no fun. Rule #1 is to have fun, and usually when you have fun you do better, so start slow and easy. It also helps to have a running partner; join a running club or even get out there and run with your dog — make it fun!
I also encourage people to enjoy the journey of training. Relish in the training miles, the friends, the experiences along the way. Don’t focus on the finish line so much, just slow down and take it all in and enjoy. One foot in front of the other, keep going, and you will get there. Also, don’t be so concerned about your pace, especially for your first marathon. Just keep going, you will finish, and when you do, make sure to put your hands in the air and a big smile on your face. Remember, the heart does not have a clock, it has beats. My mission is to make sure those beats are spent on pursuing your dreams, your passions, and having fun.
What are your favorite songs to listen to while running? Do you have a Spotify list or running mix you’d like to share with our readers?
Julie: I have a blog post about this here, and I would most definitely add some Rocky songs.
What has been the most rewarding part of starting Marathon Goddess?
Julie: The amount of awareness we have generated for pancreatic cancer. The awareness has gone GLOBAL, and I feel like we are just getting started.
We are a sunglasses store, so we have to ask: What’s your favorite pair of sunglasses on our site?
Julie: All of your purple sunglasses. 🙂
(Psst … you can find a whole collection of purple here!)