It was a sea of pink at Jacksonville’s beaches on Sunday when thousands of runners hit the pavement for the 13th annual 26.2 with Donna, The National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer.
This year’s marathon and half-marathon started and finished at the Beaches Town Center. Participants were giddy at the start line before a cannon sounded at 7:30 a.m. and the runners took off to tackle 26.2 miles or 13.1 miles of Jacksonville’s beaches.
“It was hard to fall asleep, for one, and then wake up, drink the coffee, drink and energize,” said runner Erik Hansen. “I’m really hyped.”
Dating back to its inception in 2008, Donna Marathon Weekend has raised nearly $6 million in funding for The Donna Foundation, which has helped more than 13,000 families since the nonprofit organization was started in 2003 by three-time breast cancer survivor Donna Deegan.
“I’ve done it since the start,” said runner Mary Claire Muhl. “Love this event every year -- it’s always so inspiring.”
After runners crossed the finish line triumphant, they collected their medals and celebrated with loved ones.
The theme of the 2020 Donna Marathon Weekend is #TogetherWeWILL, aiming to inspire everyone through the power of working together. Runners Stacey Price and Sope Akindoju embodied that theme, as the roommates trained together for weeks to compete in their first half-marathon.
“So we tried to do a long run every weekend, and then we did shorter but like 8 miles, 9 miles throughout the week, and we did that consecutively for only about four weeks, so this was a big push for us," they said. “It’s super awesome to see with our hard work we accomplish our goals.”
It was the second year the race ran entirely east of the Intracoastal, bringing a boom to beaches shops and businesses, after the course was revamped in 2019.
“It’s just awesome. It’s just so much love and support, positive attention,” said Beaches Town Center Merchants Association President Emilie Christenson. “The attention that we’ve gotten -- we’ve really been put on the map. It’s just really heartwarming.”
The executive director of the Donna Foundation said registration numbers were up this year -- thanks, in part, to the updated course, which is flatter and faster, and the return of the half-marathon team relay.
“It was awesome, absolutely awesome," a runner named Andrew said. "Some of the little ups and downs back over in the back of Selva (Marina Drive) were kind of rough, but other than that it was a fun race.”
The Donna Foundation estimates the event brings an economic impact of roughly $4 million to the beach towns.