Runner Deb Bahr

Deb Bahr will be running the marathon distance for the first time in her life this May. Unlike many marathon runners who have run their entire lives, Deb took up running just three years ago at the age of 60. She has run several shorter races and competed in triathlons, but has decided to really challenge herself this year by tackling the full marathon distance. Deb will be running on the Project Purple Lincoln Marathon team as a way to test herself while honoring the mother and the aunt she lost to Pancreatic Cancer.

Lois, Deb & Deb's son, Chris.
Lois, Deb & Deb’s son, Chris.

Deb describes herself as having been an inactive adult through her 30s, 40s and 50s. As she reached 60, she realized she had gained quite a bit of weight while working a job that required extensive travel. Deb’s weight had crept up to 225 pounds, and she set a goal of getting herself back down to 150. As part of her commitment to her own health and well-being, Deb took up running and triathlons.

Deb has jumped into her new pursuits with great enthusiasm. She competed in four triathlons last summer and even qualified for the USA Triathlon National Championships. Deb has run a couple of half-marathons and competed in her first trail 35K in October of 2014. Last summer, she competed in the Lincoln Half-Marathon even though illness and injury abbreviated her training cycle leading up to the race. This year’s Lincoln marathon will be Deb’s first time running the full marathon distance. Deb says, “Years ago, if someone had told me I would be doing tris and marathons, I would have thought they were out of their minds. But we are all capable of doing things we didn’t think we could do. Why not live each day to the fullest?”

Deb running in the Ugly Christmas Sweater Run
Deb running in the Ugly Christmas Sweater Run

Deb had seen a flyer for the Lincoln Marathon Project Purple team and she knew she wanted to run for the charity. She was on the fence about what distance she would complete when she happened to run across a post on Facebook about the marathon. Deb took that as a sign that she should go for the full distance. Deb explains, “What better cause could there be for me to support? I mean, how meaningful is that for me? To run for people who have been affected by this horrible disease. Being able to give back would temper any suffering I will feel while running 26 miles. They will be the wind underneath my feet and it will help to life me up while I run.”

Deb is inspired to run the full distance this year with Project Purple because her family was tragically affected twice by Pancreatic Cancer. Deb’s mother and aunt both became sick and succumbed quickly to the disease. Deb’s mother, Lois Krelle, retired from her job at the age of 65. Lois was a very private person who tended to spend a lot of time home alone. She had some gastrointestinal symptoms and was losing weight. Lois told her family that she had pancreatitis. In late 2002, her health began to markedly deteriorate. Deb pulled her mother’s doctor aside and said, “This is not just pancreatitis. What else is going on?” The doctor indicated that Lois would share information with her family when she was ready to do so.

Eventually, her pain was so great that Lois could no longer eat. Her weight dropped to 88 pounds. During what would ultimately be the last two weeks of Lois’s life, Deb took time off from her job so that she could stay with her mom. Deb knew her mother was gravely ill. She says, “It was so moving to be with her during that time and to be there when she passed. I told her, ‘It’s ok to let go. We all know you love us and we love you.’ It was a gift to have that time.” Lois passed away in January of 2003 in her apartment, while her daughter Deb held her hand. Lois’s death certificate said the cause of death was Pancreatic Cancer. She had hidden the fact that she had cancer from her family.

Deb’s family was affected by Pancreatic Cancer again in 2006, when Deb’s aunt Marjorie Boand was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. Marjorie and Lois were sisters and both had been long-term smokers. Marjorie experienced some symptoms which prompted her to seek medical attention. She was ultimately diagnosed with Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer, and died in July of 2007, less than a year after receiving her diagnosis.

Marjie & Lois, two peas in a pod.
Marjie & Lois, two peas in a pod.

Deb has seen firsthand how devastating Pancreatic Cancer is for families it affects. Deb is planning on writing the names of 26 people who have been affected by Pancreatic Cancer on her arm for the race. She will dedicate each mile to one person and draw her inspiration from that person’s journey. She says, “Losing my mom and aunt so quickly has shown me that things can change in the blink of an eye. Running this marathon has such a deeper meaning for me.”

Amanda, Deb & Elli
Amanda, Deb & Elli
Deb's family
Deb’s family

Please support Deb’s fundraising efforts by making a donation at her Crowdrise page:

Follow Project Purple on Social Media

Previous story
Runner Addison Earnest
Next story
Runner Kiley Taylor


Join us in our mission to support pancreatic cancer patients and families

With your help, we can make a difference in the fight
against this devastating disease. Learn more about
our programs and services, or make a donation.

Together, we can make a difference.