When Julie Moss started training for the Kansas City Marathon, she could run for about 30 seconds before she had to stop and walk.
Chemotherapy had stolen her strength. She was starting from scratch.
One year ago Saturday, Moss received the news she had breast cancer. In February she completed what she describes as “the really hard chemo” — the rounds that made her sick, took her hair and exhausted her so much she could not get out of bed — and in April she started walking regularly for exercise.
One year to the day of her diagnosis, Moss will run the half-marathon. She will be one of 10,000 taking to the streets of Kansas City for the Saturday event, which includes a full marathon, half-marathon, team relay, 5K and a 1.2-mile race for kids.
Moss has participated in 5K runs, but this will be her first half-marathon.
“I compare cancer to running a race,” Moss said in a phone interview. “It’s really hard, but we can do hard things. Everyone has hard stuff in their life, but we can overcome that by working hard, and faith has been a big part of it for me.”
As she runs, Moss will pray every mile for a different person or group — her young son Mason, her husband Richard, her friends, doctors and nurses who helped her, her family, the country, and police, fire and military personnel, among others.
“I’ve never felt stronger physically or spiritually,” said Moss, who lives in Lake Ozark, Mo. “That’s due to running.”
Moss will finish her cancer treatment the week after the race, and she loves ending this chapter this way.
“It’s going to be a cool accomplishment,” Moss said. “What a good way to send cancer out the door and to be like, ‘I win.’”
End of an impressive era
Saturday will mark the end of a decade-long journey for 65-year-old Mark Dangerfield, a Phoenix attorney. When he crosses the finish line of the Kansas City Marathon, Dangerfield will have completed marathons or ultramarathons in all 50 states and on all seven continents. It will be his 75th such race overall.
“It’s going to be exciting to have it completed, but I’m sure there will be a little bit of letdown afterwards, like, ‘Oh, okay, that goal’s accomplished. Now what?’” Dangerfield said in a phone interview. “Many people have asked me, ‘What’s going to be your next goal?’ … I tell them I really don’t know. I don’t have one yet, but probably one will grow on me, sort of like this one did.”
His wife, six children and 15 grandchildren will be in Kansas City to cheer him on.
Running for others
About 400 of the runners on Saturday will participate in the Kansas City Marathon as members of Team World Vision, an organization that uses running to raise funds to provide communities in Africa with access to clean water.
Team World Vision asserts that $50 will provide clean drinking water for a child for a lifetime. The Kansas City group has raised more than $165,000.
Nearly 70 percent of the runners for Team World Vision in Kansas City attend Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Liberty, where Merle Mees is the lead pastor. Mees, though never a runner before this adventure, is one of those participating.
“I would not normally do this,” Mees said in a phone interview. “This was not on my bucket list of things I wanted to do, was to one day finish a marathon. I never would have thought about that. But to do it for others and to provide just a basic need in life, it was like, well why wouldn’t I do that?”
What inspired many of the folks at his church to do likewise, Mees said, was the story of Cory Scheer, the dean of admissions at William Jewell College.
In July 2013, Scheer was wrapping up a training ride for a triathlon when a car turned in front of him. His impact totaled the vehicle. Police spray-painted the scene as a fatality. Indeed, Scheer had nearly died, with three hairline fractures in his spine and a concussion among his injuries, but 300 stitches and two days later, he walked out of the hospital. The doctor told him to buy a lottery ticket.
It stuck with Scheer how certain people met his basic needs that day and saved his life, so he made a commitment to complete 12 marathons in 12 months to raise money for five charities devoted to meeting basic needs.
Scheer ended up running in 13 marathons in that time and was featured in the magazine Runner’s World. Another runner heralded in that issue was associated with Team World Vision.
“I thought (my basic needs) fundraising effort was kind of over,” Scheer said. “I had done 13 marathons in a year. But then that’s when I got connected with Runner’s World and then got connected with Team World Vision, and then we came up with the idea of bringing it down to Kansas City. What I thought was going to be the last of it has actually turned into something much, much bigger, and it’s been great.”
Determined to finish
Only about one month remained before St. Joseph police officer Jill Voltmer would run her first marathon, and in 23 years on the job she had never suffered an injury.
That clean streak ended Sept. 14, when a man with an outstanding warrant jumped in his truck and struck Voltmer and another officer with the vehicle as they attempted to arrest him.
At the time, Voltmer had been training for the Kansas City Marathon for months, planning to run in memory of a friend who died from cancer last year.
“The door hit my right leg and twisted my knee pretty badly,” Voltmer said in a phone interview. “It was one of those freak things where I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, all this work, and it’s going to end up being for nothing.’
“I was so stinking mad,” Voltmer added. “I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me!’”
Voltmer rested from running for a week and then returned to training. Before her injury she had no concerns about the race’s six-hour time limit, but given what happened to her knee she knows she might be pushing it now.
Not finishing, however, is not an option, even if she has to crawl to the finish line.
“I’m going to do it if it takes 24 hours,” Voltmer said.