On Sunday 15 May The Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon will return after a three-year hiatus, and 32-year-old Jess Damerst from Redfern will be one of the thousands on the start line.
Every athlete has their reason for running but for Jess, leveraging the half marathon as a fundraiser for the Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) is extra motivation.
Cancer has had a major impact on Jess and the people in her life. In 2011 her dad was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and was initially given a 70% survival chance. Unfortunately, despite catching and treating the cancer early, it kept coming back and eventually he passed away in 2014 after a year and nine-month battle.
Nearly three years later cancer struck again. Jess’ best friend Julie was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and underwent several rounds of chemotherapy as well as experimental therapies including immunotherapy. Julie ultimately passed away in October last year.
Running has always been something Jess has used to clear her mind and help relieve day-to-day pressures. Jess says she also uses running as a way to remain close to those she’s lost.
“My dad was a huge supporter of my running, always at the finish line or taking pictures, and then my friend Julie ran a half marathon with me in 2015 and she joined me in becoming a runner after that. She started running a lot and I remember running was a big part of what she wanted to do to stay healthy while she was on her journey with cancer,” said Jess.
Jess first came across ACRF while looking for fundraising opportunities for The Sun-Herald City2Surf. Jess says both her dad and best friend were able to prolong their lifespan because of the advancements in cancer research, prevention, and lifesaving technologies, and so was drawn to ACRF as she felt their work was impactful in the cancer research space.
“I’ve unfortunately been closely impacted by cancer, not in a positive way either as I’m only close to one person who has survived. But for my dad and best friend, unfortunately they weren’t able to find a cure,” she said. “I found ACRF because I was looking through fundraising opportunities for the City2Surf and I read their mission statement and I really liked the idea that the money was all toward lifesaving research and that felt really impactful for me personally.”
After she ran the City2Surf, the charity invited Jess to see the equipment her fundraising had helped purchase. This gesture and show of attention to fundraisers cemented her support of ACRF and so Jess was determined to raise more money in support of the charity.
With her sights set on The Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon in May, Jess has already exceeded her initial fundraising target of $3,500 with a month to go until the event.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, this will be Jess’ first event since 2019. In that time, she welcomed her first baby into the world in August last year. She says Sydney’s iconic half marathon is a great motivator to remain mentally and physically healthy.
“Running is really ingrained in a lot of things around my interpersonal relationships and my health. I had a baby last August and so I thought that turning out for this event will be a really great motivator for me to get out and start working out again, and start with something that I’m familiar with,” said Jess. “I don’t do anything by halves, so I thought I’d do a half marathon.”
On Sunday 15 May Jess will take to the streets of Sydney, running for herself, her son, and in support of a cancer-free world.
“I’m sure I’ll feel everything. Every time I do a difficult running event, I do feel like it’s hard work but really gratifying when I do it,” she said. “Also raising money helps of course because I feel like the money is really going toward lifesaving research, and some of the more experimental stuff that helped my dad draw out his life for a couple of months and same with my friend, a lot of that stuff is now at the forefront of cancer cures.”
Joining Jess for the half marathon are two of her ACRF fundraising teammates, Clare and Will, who have also lost friends and family to cancer.
To donate to ACRF and support Jess Damerst’s fundraising effort visit https://smhhalfmarathon2022.grassrootz.com/acrf/jessica-damerst
To enter The Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon and for more information visit 2022 Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon (grassrootz.com)
This article was originally created by The IRONMAN Group Oceania .