Julie Weiss is widely known in running circles as the “Marathon Goddess”. It is no wonder she has acquired the nickname, as she has run 86 marathons since she began running just seven years ago. When asked how she acquired the nickname, Julie explains that she saw the words “Marathon Goddess” on a t-shirt and loved it. She ended up trademarking the name. She explains, “It is all about embracing the goddess within us all. It symbolizes embracing your passion and letting it shine. My passion just happens to be marathons and now it is also raising awareness for pancreatic cancer.” Julie is on a new quest to run 100 marathons. She is joining the Project Purple teams in Chicago, Denver and New York City in 2015 in hopes of raising $1 million dollars for Pancreatic Cancer research.
In 2010, Julie Weiss’ father, Maurice Weiss, was diagnosed with Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer. He passed away just 35 days later. Though they had at times had a difficult relationship while Julie was growing up, they had become close around the same time that Julie began running. Her dad was Julie’s biggest fan and was incredibly proud of his daughter’s athletic achievements.
After losing her father in such a devastatingly short period of time, Julie felt that she needed to do something to help others affected by Pancreatic Cancer. She recalls thinking, “I have to do something big. I have to raise a lot of money for research. My dad was the kind of man who always did things in a big way. That is how I want to honor him.”
When Julie was in her early 30s, she was a single mom with two teenage children. She and her kids were not living a particularly healthy lifestyle. They were all overweight and Julie was taking antidepressants. She says, “I was just going through the motions of daily life. I was not living. I was basically only existing.” In 2007, she went on vacation in Hawaii with her parents. While on vacation, she started running on the beaches and discovered that she loved it. She stopped taking the antidepressants and when she returned to Santa Monica, CA, she stayed off of the medications for good. Running became her natural antidepressant. Julie entered her first race in 2007, a triathlon, at the suggestion of a friend. After completing it, Julie thought, “I can do a half-marathon!” After finishing the half-marathon, Julie first thought was, “What’s stopping me from doing a full?”
In 2008, Julie ran the LA Marathon as her first attempt at the marathon distance. She remembers clearly feeling as if she had hit the wall at mile 12. Nevertheless, Julie’s love affair with the marathon had begun. Throughout the course of training for her first several events, Julie began eating healthier. She lost 30 pounds and her children lost weight and became healthier, as well.
Julie remembers those first two years of her running career. Her father was incredibly proud of her. Maurice Weiss was a stockbroker who became an actor at the age of 70. Julie says, “He had a larger-than-life personality. He was a brilliant guy. We had a very close relationship for those last two years of his, but I am so sad that he is not here to see his grandchildren grow up.”
The devastation of losing her father in such a quick and cruel fashion motivated Julie to do something larger-than-life in his honor. Julie came up with the idea that she would run 52 marathons in 52 weeks to raise money for Pancreatic Cancer research. At this point, she had already run 12 marathons in a one-year time period, so she thought she could finish the 52. Julie sat down with a calendar one night and made up a schedule. Her first race was the 2012 Rome Marathon. Julie ended up being one of seven runners at the Rome Marathon to be featured in the movie “Spirit of the Marathon 2”.
At the Boston Marathon in 2012, Julie met Project Purple founder, Dino Verrelli. Julie remembers the two hitting it off. They ran some of the race together and bonded as they discussed how they had both lost their fathers to Pancreatic Cancer. Julie says, “We were comrades in arms in the fight against Pancreatic Cancer.” Dino told Julie about the charity he had founded. Julie thought that Project Purple, with its slogan of “Running to Beat Pancreatic Cancer”, would fit perfectly with her mission.
Though running the 52 marathons in 52 weeks was a physical and emotional challenge for her, Julie completed her journey at the 2013 LA Marathon. During her quest to complete her 52, Julie made it her mission to meet people who were fighting Pancreatic Cancer. She garnered a large following on social media, and was flooded with emails from people who wanted to share their stories. Though the survival statistics for Pancreatic Cancer remain grim, Julie wanted to share the fighters’ stories to give others a sense of hope.
Following the completion of her 52 marathons, it took about a year and a half for Julie to recover physically, emotionally and financially. Finally, in September of 2014, she felt ready to begin training in earnest again. To date, Julie has completed 86 marathons. The LA Marathon has become Julie’s favorite race over the years. It is the first marathon she ever ran. It is the race she chose to be her final of her 52 in 2013. In 2015, it became a favorite for another reason. As she crossed the finish line, her long-term boyfriend, David Levine, proposed to her. Julie said yes. The couple wed in April of 2015. Julie is now planning to make the 2016 LA Marathon the 100th marathon of her lifetime. As part of her schedule for the upcoming year, Julie with be running the Chicago, Denver and New York City Marathons with the Project Purple marathon teams. Julie hopes to raise $1 million for Pancreatic Cancer charity through her running.
Julie says, “My main focus when I do these marathons is the people I am running for. I run for those who are fighting, or who have been lost. I dedicate every marathon to someone. We need to do everything we can so that people have a fighting chance if they are diagnosed. It is not OK the way it is right now.” Julie often uses the phrase “We got this” in social media. She explains what this means to her, “In my darkest hours, when I am pushing through those marathons, I can keep going for the people I am running for. What I am going through is nothing compared to what people who are fighting this disease are going through.”
Project Purple is very pleased to have the Marathon Goddess join our team. You can find Julie’s official website here:
You can donate to Julie’s Project Purple Fundraiser by following this link to her Crowdrise page: