Donna 26.2 Breast Cancer Marathon Relay

The highlight of my weekend was, without a doubt, the Donna 26.2 Breast Cancer Marathon relay.

donna marathon medal

Participating in this relay was my dad’s idea. He watched runners pass by my parents’ place during the race last year and felt incredibly emotional and inspired since my family has been directly touched by breast cancer. When he asked whether Ryan, Leslie, Ross and I would be interested in running in the relay with him in honor of my mom, we were all 100 percent in from the beginning.

We named our team the “Salt Water Cure” because, for as long as I can remember, my dad has believed that salt water (the ocean) can cure anything.

Ryan and I hoped to arrive in Jacksonville early enough on Saturday to attend the race expo and relax a little before bedtime, but we ended up arriving at 10 p.m. because Ryan had to work all day. It was a big bummer, and we ended up staying up past midnight chatting with my family, but fortunately the energy of race day helped me feel awake and excited when my alarm went off at 6 a.m.

Thanks to my dad for attending the expo and grabbing race bibs, t-shirts and goodie bags for all of us!


I love the look of the backpack.


When we looked at the layout of the relay ahead of time, we divided up each leg and I ended up with the first six-mile stretch. (My portion of the race covered the purple and light pink boxes on the map below.)

Donna 26.2 Course Map

I was really excited to kick off the race and had a feeling it would be energizing and inspiring to be surrounded by so many runners.

Every race participant is given a race bib but they are also provided with an “I’m finishing for…” bib to attach to their back to give a shout out to the person or people who inspired them to run the race.

race bib

My sister’s finishing bib:

finishing for

Ross’ bib:


(Ross’ mom and my mom are both named Susan, so I absolutely loved this!)

Seeing the finishing bibs on the backs of runners throughout the course was a constant reminder of the reason why we were all out there running. And I loved seeing the “SURVIVOR” bibs on runners who have personally fought or are currently fighting breast cancer. They are truly incredible.

It seemed like so many of the runners on the course had personal ties to breast cancer and were running this race with a lot of heart and love and a strong hope that a cure for this cancer will one day be found.

The race kicked off a little after 7:30 a.m. and I took off with my baton in hand!

Donna 26.2

My portion of the race took me through Ponte Vedra and I could not have been more impressed with the crowd support. So many people decorated their houses, set up aid stations with oranges, bananas, water and towels and blasted music or even played their own! 

Donna 26.2 Crowd Support

I have never participated in a race with this kind of crowd support and it was incredible! On more than one occasion I thought a person’s front yard was an aid station because they had so much stuff set up for runners.

Donna Marathon JAcksonville

And there were so, so many race volunteers who came out to help and they were just fabulous. To all of the race volunteers out there, THANK YOU!

My six miles flew by and before I knew it, I was at the first exchange zone, ready to pass the baton to my sister.


Donna Breast Cancer Marathon

Sadie was such a good little cheerleader!

After I handed Leslie the baton, she took off and I headed over to my family to say hi. Within 20 seconds, I looked around and realized some of the other relay participants I had just been running with continued running with their teammate when they passed the baton to them. When I asked someone working at the race if I could join my sister for her portion of the relay, they said sure, so I took off after her and ended up running her 3.75 mile portion, too! Her portion ended up being a little long (3.9 miles), so my total mileage for the day was 9.9 miles. My hips and quads are sore today, but it was so much fun and I’m already looking for future races to run…

Our third runner of the day was Ryan who had the longest portion of the run to tackle at 6.75 miles. He killed it and increased our average pace by a good bit!

photo 3

After Ryan, it was Ross’ turn to carry the baton and he ran 3.5 miles and didn’t even seem to break a sweat. Go Ross!


Ross passed the baton off to my dad, our final runner, who had 6.2 miles to conquer.


Though Ryan’s leg of the race was the longest, we heard from many people that my dad’s was the hardest since he had to run over a huge bridge before the finish. It also sounds like his portion didn’t include as much crowd support since he was running on a highway that was shut down, but he did incredible and our relay team finished with a time of 4:11:11.

Salt Water Cure

We finished in 39th place (out of 178 relay teams) and were quite pleased with our time!

Breast Cancer Relay

As my dad finished, the weather took a turn for the worse and it started raining. We spent about 40 minutes in the runner’s village and took advantage of the free hot soup, hot dogs and hamburgers, but it was quite chilly and wet and we eventually headed home where we learned that the course had just been shut down due to thunderstorms.

I am so glad we were able to finish but feel awful for the people who trained and were not able to cross the finish line due to weather concerns. I hope they still got a medal!

Yesterday was such a special day and I’m so grateful my dad wanted to do this race because it was a blast. I’d love to do another relay in the future!

Question of the Morning

  • Would you ever want to do a marathon relay? If so, which leg would you want to run?
  • Runners: What was the last race you did that had amazing spectator support?


  1. says

    I’m doing the PGH marathon relay with my family t his year and I am so excited! We actually have two groups of family members doing it so it will be a blast! So sad that not everyone got to finish the course, though 🙁


  2. says

    Great recap! It definitely made me want to run a relay 🙂 I’ve never thought about it, but my mother is a breast cancer survivor as well. Although I’ve run individual races for the cause, I think it would be even more meaningful to do a relay race with others affected by the disease.

    The last race I did with great spectator support was probably the NYC Half Marathon. As you can imagine, there were people there every step of the way. However, my favorite race for spectator support was the Disney Marathon. It had just the right amount of support, but also some stretches for me to get my thoughts together. And of course, nothing is more motivating than Mickey Mouse!


  3. says

    Congrats to you guys – and your mama 🙂 What a rewarding way to race – not only for a cause near and dear to your heart, but done with people near and dear to your heart as well!


  4. says

    So fun!!! I would love to do a marathon relay sometime!! How special too, love all the crowd support and it always makes a huge difference when you’re running for something that hits so close to home in your heart!


  5. says

    I love this! I would love to do a marathon relay. I think relays are so much fun. I did the Ragnar a few years ago and it was by far my most fun running event!


  6. says

    Congrats on your finish! it’s a great race! The sponsor of the soup tent (and a lot of the race) is a client of mine. I was at the race last year, but wasn’t able to make it down this year. I heard about the horrible weather…I’m so glad you finished in time and didn’t get pulled off the course!


  7. says

    This sounds like such a lovely experience! I love when the crowd gets into it, really helps motivate you and makes you feel like a rockstar. One of my favorite races is the Walk for Diabetes in honor of my sister. Supporting organizations so dear to your heart is a wonderful experience!


  8. Paola Ayers says

    I love this idea! It’s so great to have your family close enough that they can get together to do this as a team! I might need to plan a family event around one of these relay marathons….


  9. says

    That’s so, so cool. Christian, my mom, my sister & I did the Susan G Komen 5k a couple years ago and it was so special. My mom had JUST finished her chemo & radiation the month before and I could tell that the race meant a lot to her.


  10. Amanda says

    Sounds like a blast! Thanks for sharing. I would love to do a relay sometime too! And I love that it was for a cause so close to your heart. The race that I’ve experienced the most crowd support was the Chicago Marathon, which is notorious for loud, large crowds over the entire route. I loved it-I didn’t get bored at all and was entertained the whole time! It definitely makes a difference!


  11. says

    OMG what a fantastic race, julie! i’d love to do something like this. in fact, i am looking up races right now! such a wonderful and supportive family you have 🙂 i think i would like to do a longer leg of the race as i like going the distance.


  12. says

    A marathon relay sounds like fun…certainly the only way I’d ever participate in a marathon (I am so not a long-distance runner, so the shortest leg would have my name all over it!). And if it’s for a great cause, all the better!

    Congrats to you and the rest of the Salt Water Cure team. Sounds like you had a great day!


  13. says

    I ran 26.2 with Donna this weekend as well! It was a wonderful race and the supporters were amazing! I finished at 4:11:19 so I must have been right near you team! I think I remember seeing your dad! Well done to you all!


  14. says

    That’s so awesome! My cousin, family friends, and my dad did a marathon relay in Vermont 8 short months after my dad had a quadruple bypass. My dad is not a runner, so it was a HUGE deal. I jumped on and finished with him (he also was the final leg) and the picture of us crossing the finish line holding hands is so special to me. How fun for your family! Love to your Moms!


  15. Katie says

    I think a marathon relay would be fun. I would want to go first and get the running started. It is nice to see that your dad’s arm has healed.


  16. Stefanie E. says

    I am so glad you guys enjoyed it as much as I did last year. This was my first out-of-state 1/2 marathon race (I’m from CA) and it by far and away the best event for spectators and al around energy from the crowd. I would run this again in a heartbeat. Not to mention I ran the whole thing in a pink tutu which was super fun 🙂


  17. says

    I’m glad you showed Ross’ “I’m running for…” bib, I ran right behind him for a good portion of his relay leg and remember seeing the bib and remarking in my mind the uniqueness Of it! Now I know who I was running behind!!


  18. Jill says

    I ran the Gate River Run (15K) in Jacksonville last year with my best friend from college. I could not believe how many people were out supporting the runners with orange slices, gummy bears, rice crispy treats and even BEER!


  19. says

    What an awesome experience for you and your family! Congratulations on not only a successful run, but also your Mom’s continuing good health! What a way to celebrate her!

    Cincinnati’s marathon, theFlying Pig, shuts down quite a few neighborhoods each May. My first experience with it was 2 years ago when some friends decided to run the relay. It was a lot of fun supporting each other! I would definitely do it again!


  20. says

    I would love to do a relay one day! I think that’s so neat that y’all did that for such a great cause. The last race I did that had amazing spectator support was the Rock-n-Roll run in New Orleans. The jazz bands were so much fun and everyone was dressed up and dancing as we ran by 🙂


  21. says

    What an amazing race and for such a great cause! I’ve never run a relay before, but given my dislike of long distances it’d probably be the only way I end up on a marathon course. That’s so awesome that your family can do something like that together.


  22. Ashley says

    Hi Julie!! LOVE that you all ran the race together – Congratulations! I bet your mama was so proud.

    My favorite race so far (I have run 2 half marathons) was the Pittsburgh Marathon. Crossing the bridges and seeing each neighborhood with bands, water, fruit, signs, costumes, etc, was the highlight of the race for me. I would do a marathon relay in a heart beat. I have run both of my half marathons with my cousins, and my sister is joining us this time!!


  23. says

    I got chills just reading this — I can only imagine how moving it must have been to be running through all of those people and reading about their personal experiences. That’s definitely one way to make the miles pass by in a blink!


  24. says

    I’m a 1 and (almost) 1/2 year survivor of breast cancer. Seeing a huge event like this makes my heart sing. It’s sad how many people have been touched by specifically breast cancer alone. Getting diagnosed at 25 was a huge shock to my friends and family, and they all have taken their health and wellness more seriously since then. It’s true what you said about seeing “running for ____” on someone’s back. When I’m working out now and think it’s hard and want to give up, I visualize myself running/spinning/lifting away from my cancer and it never coming back– and just how far I’ve come from doing chemo while pregnant. It’s a powerful motivator! Congratulations on your race, and how special that you were able to do it with your family.


  25. says

    I would love to run a marathon relay! I think I would like to start off with the 6 mile stretch or do the ending 6 miles. That looks like such an awesome event and I love how there is soo much support from the crowd. Any Race for The Cure race I’ve done always has lots of support.


  26. says

    Julie! You have got me all inspired to try a marathon relay of my own. I have no desire to run a marathon but a leg of 6 miles is totally doable. It looks like your family had such a special day and it makes me smile to see you were all able to be together for such a great memory and healthy to run the race…yay! Great post 🙂


  27. says

    That is so amazing!! Congrats on the awesome finish and fist pumps for running for a great cause.
    I think running a marathon relay sounds like a blast, and I’d probably want to go for a shorter distance (3.5 miles maybe) since I’m not an avid runner by any means. 🙂


  28. says

    So awesome you guys did this! I would absolutely do this if they had races like this here in Australia. If I was to do it I think I’d like to start and get my portion over with as well as then be able to help cheer everyone on.

    So lucky you were able to finish before the bad weather came but not so good for others still finishing the race.


  29. Patty T says

    I’ve run the California International Marathon Relay for the last six years and it has always been a blast. My husband and I always run it with another couple and we always run the same legs. I always have the first leg that is 5.9 miles. We have a blast every year, the only bad part is getting the shuttle at 4:30am.


  30. says

    WOW what an amazing race. I LOVE relay races. I do the Ragnar Relay which is 36 legs, each runner does 3 legs total and it usually takes 30 some hours. It is a 200 mile relay race. It goes through many small towns along the mississippi river, it is so much fun! I am doing it again this summer and planning on choosing longer legs this time 🙂


  31. Chelsea says

    If you haven’t run the Gate River Run 15K in Jacksonville, it’s a must!!!! There are crowds cheering you on throughout the entire race course and they are awesome! It is definitely my favorite race of the year in Jacksonville!!


  32. says

    The last race I ran with amazing spectator support was the Nike Women’s Half marathon in DC last year. It was so awesome because we ran all through DC, and even though there were like 15k women running the race, I actually saw a friend or two cheering from the sidelines. Best race I’ve run hands-down.


  33. Alexis says

    My first marathon, the Marin Corps Marathon 2013. Absolutely incredible to be cheered on by the men and women who serve our country. Sounds awesome! I’d love to do a Ragnar Relay :).


  34. says

    I love this concept and would love to run a race like this! It’s so special that y’all were able to support your mom (and Ross’) through this race, amazing! Also, I love your and Leslie’s cute pink outfits!


  35. says

    I’m signed up to run the four person relay at the Flying Pig. I’m super excited to run in my hometown race. Leg assignments have not been doled out just yet. I’ve heard some parts are quite difficult with the hills of Cincinnati.


  36. Emma says

    Congrats!! I definitely would want to do a relay! Seems like tons of fun! I would want to do the first relay, just like you did, because I would be too excited to have to wait for my team members to reach me, lol.

    Last race with great spectator support was my first half marathon I did a week ago, the 5 Point of Life race! It was great and having the cheering made my first 13.1 miles a huge success!


  37. says

    I love this! What a great way to honor a cause so close to the hearts of your family.

    My friends and I did the St. Louis Marathon Relay last year. It was a blast–except that one of our girls got sick, and I ended up running three of the four legs on a day when my body just wasn’t having it!


  38. Allison T. says

    Such a great story, Julie! I am running a Marathon relay this spring in my hometown. I’m really excited; I’ve never done one before! I’m running a 6.75 leg.


  39. says

    How fun! Love that you all did this for your Mom! I’m sure it made the run even more rewarding:) Love your team name too, your Dad is right;) Congrats on a great finish!
    I have always wanted to do this relay! We live in St. A but always seem to be out of town or do not have a group to do it:( Donna runs are always so fun and full of energy! We have done the Mother’s day 5k for the last several years and 1 other random one she had downtown Jax.
    This past weekend I ran the Enchanted 10k at Disney! I ran with my sister and it was her 1st race ever! Even though I went slower than usual, it was truly a magical experience and my favorite race finishing with her!



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