Healing and Perseverance

Contributed by Erin Mara, a writer and runner living in San Francisco.

Illustrations by inoutlines

We polled San Francisco Marathon runners and asked them what they loved about the race, plus what lessons running has taught them along the way. A few common themes came up, so read on to learn about why racers love running in San Francisco, how running has helped them persevere and heal, and why SF locals love The San Francisco Marathon.

The San Francisco Marathon is more than a race for some runners — it’s a time to heal and persevere. Cancer survivors, stroke victims, and others push through struggles and sadness with every mile.

Carol Dellinger, 54, Spokane, WA


Breast cancer survivor with 300+ marathons under her belt.

Carol is a self proclaimed “warrior marathon runner” who recently finished her 300th lifetime marathon — 66 of those marathons since being diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2009. Now 100% cancer free, Carol is an inspiring individual who proves that challenges can be overcome. “Cancer didn’t win this battle, I won this battle,” Carol said. “I am alive, and can’t wait to live the rest of my life.”

“The San Francisco Marathon is always close to my mother’s birthday on July 27,” Carol said. “She lost her battle to breast cancer 30 years ago, so I always run in her honor during the race.” The San Francisco Marathon in 2017 will be Carol’s 305th lifetime marathon — and 70th since breast cancer.

Lessons learned through running: “Each marathon is a journey of what I have accomplished after going through breast cancer. After 300 marathons, it is more than a marathon, it is a celebration of life.”

Linda Ambard, 55, Bolivar, MO

Tragically lost her husband. 

Linda has run for more than 40 years. “Running has led to the happiest moments of my life, carried me through life’s hardest moments, and opened so many doors,” she said. “Running is who I am.”

On her 50th birthday, Linda ran The San Francisco Marathon “broken beyond belief.”  Her husband of 23 ½ years was killed in action with the U.S. Air Force as he helped the Afghani military set up a clinic and their government. “I wept and struggled through the 26.2 miles, but I as I ran, I was able to find my footing,” Linda said. “The San Francisco Marathon is special to me because of what it represents — the turning point. San Francisco was a favorite vacation for my family, and it is the city where I discovered that, in spite of the devastation, there was hope for tomorrow.”

Lessons learned through running:  “Life is like a marathon. In every marathon, it is going to hurt. I am going to want to quit. I know that it will hurt more tomorrow and the next day, but I also know that if I concentrate on the step in front of me instead of the entire journey, I will make it through the pain and darkness one second at a time, one minute at a time, one mile at a time.”

Araiz Arriola, 55, Mexico City, Mexico 

Hit by a motorcycle while crossing the street. 

A cancer survivor, Araiz started running 10 years ago, and has run 18 marathons since.  In 2013, he qualified for the Boston Marathon. Two years later, Araiz was hit by a motorcycle while crossing the street. Bedridden for weeks with a skull fracture, it took Araiz nearly a year to fully recover. He signed up for The San Francisco Marathon in 2016, “to get motivation with the crazy dream of re-qualifying for Boston,” he said. “It was hard, but fun. I really enjoyed each and every step of the race, and, finally, I achieved my qualification. Most importantly, I felt like myself again.”

Araiz said he loves The San Francisco Marathon because “it makes me feel happy and powerful. The city is beautiful. The course is challenging but the finish line is achievable, and every detail of the event is carefully designed for runners to enjoy it.”

Lessons learned through running: “Running shows me, once and again, that I’m capable of way more that I’ve ever thought.”

William Cory Jeffries, 53, Tampa, FL

Suffered two strokes one week apart. 

William has been a runner for 12 years, and in that time, he has run 17 marathons. The races have included San Francisco, Chicago, Walt Disney World (including the Goofy Challenge — twice), Marine Corps, and the LA Marathon.

In April 2016, he suffered two strokes — one week apart. The 40th anniversary of The San Francisco Marathon will be William’s comeback. “I’m running the half marathon to prove that my strokes took nothing away from me,” William said. “It is worth the hurt in order to come back.”

Lessons learned through running: “That which does kill me only makes me stronger!”

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