There are those moments when life changes, when you know nothing will be the same.
For Julie Weiss, that moment was in 2007 while with her family on Poipu Beach. It was a time when she felt she was “kind of stuck,” overweight and on antidepressants.
So that day, as she stood on the beach looking out on the ocean, she started running. Not fast. What counted was, she was running and for some reason, it felt pretty good. The sand was warm, the ocean invigorating.
“It really all started there,” Weiss said. “It was such a magical place for me. I wanted to take this beauty with me everywhere.”
Those were the first steps of a journey that continues. Weiss recalls she ran and swam every day that week she was on Kauai seven years ago. Doesn’t sound that amazing, but for someone who was struggling with a direction in life, it was. She referred to it as a transformational time.
“I sort of found my groove on the beach there,” she said. “It just felt so healing.”
These days, she’s doing what she can to heal others.
Weiss, who has become known as the “Marathon Goddess,” is returning to her favorite island to run for the third straight year. She’ll arrive Wednesday and on Sunday run the Kauai half marathon, a change from the marathon she ran in 2012 and 2013.
But her purpose hasn’t changed: She’s aiming to create hope, awareness and raise money to fight cancer.
“Through my love of running, my love of life and my love for my father I plan to raise hope, money and awareness to the world for those who have been affected by pancreatic cancer,” Weiss said.
Her first marathon was in Los Angeles in 2008, and it did not go well when she “hit the wall” with 12 miles to go.
“I made all the beginner mistakes. It was awful,” she said.
She thought she would never try another marathon. Then, she decided to redeem herself. She ran more, trained smarter and improved. She and her father set a goal: She would qualify for the Boston Marathon, and he would be there.
On her 18th try, she qualified for the Boston Marathon. But her father, Maurice died in December 2010 from pancreatic cancer.
“When dad died, I decided I’ve got to do something,” the Santa Monica, California, resident said.
She learned that pancreatic cancer is the fourth-leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide and research is underfunded — one reason she chose to “fight this horrible disease.”
When she ran Boston in 2011, she raised her hands when she crossed the finish line. He was, she said, her biggest fan and she still runs with him in her heart.
“I knew we had done it together,” she said. “Dad was so proud of me.”
She later vowed to run 52 marathons in 52 weeks and raise money for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network — all while working full time as an accountant. The 2012 Kauai Marathon was number 20 on that journey, which she completed in March 2013. Ultimately, she raised nearly $200K for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.
“I dedicated each of my marathons to someone affected by pancreatic cancer because my fight was nothing compared to what these people had to go through,” the mother of two wrote. “They are my heroes.”
Weiss will be speaking at the expo. Her presentation, scheduled for 2 p.m. on Friday and noon on Saturday at the Grand Hyatt Kauai, is titled, “52 Marathons in 52 Weeks – The Journey!”
She’s no longer running a marathon a week, but she’s still running with Team for Life and raising money for the Lazarex Cancer Foundation.
Nutrition, exercise and peace of mind are all components to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, she said.
“I always feel at home when I am on Kauai, the spirit and people, the relaxing nature and peacefulness of it, it just feels like where I belong,” she said.