Soles of Inspiration: Cancer Survivor Ran a Marathon on Each Continent to Raise Awareness, Funds


BethAnn Telford recently spent a week running a marathon a day on each of the seven continents to raise money and awareness for childhood cancers. This is after her own brain cancer diagnosis more than a decade ago.

BethAnn Telford

BethAnn Telford

BethAnn Telford - PHOTO BY Meghan Tucker

Some people mark their bucket list with the goal of running a marathon, while others might wish to visit every continent on the world. Others may just want to continue their fight against a life-threatening illness.

BethAnn Telford checked off all three.

The Diagnosis

Telford was in mile 19 of the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington DC when she heard a “pop!” and began to feel woozy. She finished the race, but, due to some confusion, took the wrong train, and instead of going home, ended up on the wrong side of town.

“I finished the marathon, but knew that something was wrong. I thought I was dehydrated,” Telford, who is a special events coordinator for the president of the United States said in an interview with CURE.

A few days later, Telford went to the doctor and eventually got an MRI. When the doctor called her with the results and told her that she needed to come in as soon as possible, she pleaded with him for about 15 minutes about her busy schedule, as she was working 14- to 18-hour days back then and would not be able to come in so soon.

“You have a brain tumor,” he finally said.

“I was stunned into disbelief because I didn’t know what that was,” Telford said.

Telford, a Pennsylvania native, had surgery and treatment at Johns Hopkins Cancer Center. After treatment, she lost vision in one eye, and had to re-learn how to talk and walk. But thanks to her spirit and perseverance, Telford got back on her feet walking…and then running.

Finding Her Gait Again

Her first time running again was after surgery while doing rehab back in Pennsylvania. Her hometown was holding a 5k race, and she and her family joined in, Telford figuring she’d just walk the 3.1 miles. But her father — who she says is her hero – was ahead of her, looking back and cheering her on to try to go just a little faster.

“That’s when I knew I was going to be OK. I started lifting my feet a little faster, and ran — slowly – but I ran,” Telford said.

And it seems like she has not stopped running from that moment. She recently completed the World Marathon Challenge, running seven marathons in seven days on all seven continents, and also has not missed a single Marine Corps Marathon since hearing that initial “pop!” 12 years ago.

Moments of Inspiration

From Jan. 24-29, Telford visited a continent a day to run 26.2 miles. She was the only American female in the group of 33 participating in the event, and when things got tough, she looked down at her brightly colored sneakers and remembered why she was running.

Her New Balance-sponsored sneakers had pictures drawn by pediatric cancer patients from around the nation, reminding her to focus on her cause of raising money and awareness for childhood cancer — specifically brain tumors. To date, Telford has raised close to $1 million for Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure.

“These kids under the age of 19 get less than 4 percent of federal funding,” Telford said. This became a reality when her doctor took her to the pediatric wing of the hospital and told her that many of these children would not make it out or live to see adulthood. “I was baffled.”

“To be able to take my story and be able to do what I did globally has been amazing. It has never been about me, it has been about advocating, and getting the word out and find a cure for these diseases,” Telford said.

Overcoming Barriers

While Telford is not in the pediatric group that only receives a small amount of federal funding, she has still had to face some struggles with her own disease.

“I’ve had several setbacks in the 12 years I’ve been fighting, but through it all, I’ve been trying to use my endurance abilities to raise money and awareness,” she said.

Telford had an additional surgery and bladder augmentation. After she started training for the World Marathon Challenge a year-and-a-half ago, she got bronchitis which developed into pneumonia, putting her out of training for about two weeks.

But after that minor setback, Telford continued training — and with no injuries, which surprised her.

Of course she had some pre-race jitters before the first run in Antartica, but said that once it started, it flew by very quickly.

“The next thing I know, I was in Australia, and I was sad because it was over,” Telford said, mentioning that while the string of races may be over, her work is far from done.

“My finish line is when we find out that we did find a cure for cancer. When that does happen, that’s my finish line, not these epic events,” Telford said. “I think people are going to be more amazed when the media outlets report that there is a cure for these cancers.”

Related Videos
Related Content