‘Good to see people caring about each other’: Donna Marathon weekend combines running events with fight against breast cancer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A weekend of running and fundraising to fight against breast cancer kicked off Saturday morning when thousands of runners took over part of the downtown Jacksonville sports district to run events for Donna Marathon weekend.

Thousands of runners from all across the nation lined up at the starting line inside TIAA Bank Field to celebrate breast cancer survivorship in the 5K and Donna Dash races on Saturday.

RELATED: Annual ‘Donna Marathon’ weekend kicks off Friday

This year’s 5K winner, high schooler Andrew Marello, said he enjoys running for such a great cause.

“It’s not really about me,” the back-to-back champion said. “It’s about everybody who has survived breast cancer fighting through it. So it’s awesome to be out here and support the cause.”

The Wolfson High School student said both of his grandmothers are breast cancer survivors.

“It’s really awesome to be running for them,” he said.

This is the first year the full race schedule is being offered since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in 2020.

Sunday will feature the Donna marathon and half-marathon at the beaches.

Runners will take on a new 13-mile loop course through Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach, and Atlantic Beach

MAPS: Marathon and half marathon route | Traffic impacts and road closures

The marathon and half-marathon will begin at 7:30 a.m. from Seawalk Pavillion at Jacksonville Beach. Plan for traffic delays and limited street parking at the beaches on Sunday.

It’s the first year the marathon has sold out in 16 years.

New Jersey native Tracy Heady, who ran the 5K on Saturday, said her first-year experience with the marathon made it her goal to come back for Donna Weekend every year.

When she came the first time, she was over the time limit on the marathon and organizers had started to take the course down, so she got a little confused about where to go for the finish line.

That’s when she met Jacksonville native Michael Sharp.

Jacksonville native Michael Sharp and New Jersey native Tracy Heady share a story about Heady's first Donna Marathon. (WJXT)

“I could tell she didn’t know where she was heading but was definitely part of the race,” Sharp recalled. “She said, ‘I’m committed to this race’ and she says, ‘I don’t care if I do the exact route, but I’m not stopping until I do a full marathon.’ And I said, ‘Well, I live locally. I’ll run with you. Let’s go.’”

They ran together until Heady made it to the finish line.

“They had over a dozen people waiting for me, and they kept the finish line up just for me,” an emotional Heady recalled.

Sharp said runners coming from all over the world for the marathon weekend says a lot about Jacksonville.

“I think it shows the character of the city. You know, oftentimes, you only hear bad news on the news. And I hate to say that, but it’s the case,” Sharp said. “So it’s good to see people doing good things and it’s good to see people caring about each other.”

The 110-mile ultra-marathon also took off from TIAA Bank Field on Saturday and will end in Atlantic Beach on Sunday.

News4JAX caught up with one of the seven ultra-marathon runners, Dave Krupski, who shared his light-hearted take on running 110 miles. Press play below to watch his interview: