Donna Marathon Weekend kicks off with Social Shakeout

The Donna Marathon Weekend is officially underway, starting with the three-mile Social Shakeout Friday morning.

NEPTUNE BEACH, Fla. -- The Donna Marathon Weekend is officially underway, starting with the three-mile Social Shakeout Friday morning.

“This is the hardest part!” Donna Deegan said excitedly Friday. “Once we get this close you just wanna take off and go!”

It’s the eleventh year the Donna Marathon Weekend has painted Jacksonville’s beaches pink, and for Deegan it never gets old.

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“It’s really amazing to see people continue to come in to help be part of the solution, to end breast cancer and to help women who are dealing with it,” Deegan said.

Runners gathered at Southern Grounds in Neptune Beach for the Social Shakeout, the kickoff to weekend events. One of them, Dr. Edith Perez, worked with Donna to launch the marathon.

“Was just an idea of two people that grew to an idea of hundreds of people and now thousands of people,” said Dr. Perez, who works for Mayo Clinic and treated Deegan.

Many of the runners have participated in marathons before. Joan Benoit Samuelson has her fair share of marathon victories, including Olympic gold. But she said nothing is like The Donna, where you run side-by-side with breast cancer survivors and those still fighting.

“Some of these survival stories are just as inspiring, if not more inspiring than an Olympic victory,” Benoit Samuelson said.

If you’re running the half or full marathon, remember to keep the heat in mind. Trainer Jeff Galloway recommended slowing your pace 30 seconds per mile for every five degrees the temperature rises above 60. Additionally, adjust your run-to-walk ratio.

“For example, someone that was running 60 seconds and walks 30, when it’s 65-70 [degrees] should drop down to 30 seconds run, 30 seconds walk," Galloway said. "And when it gets up to 80 [degrees], which it may, then you go down to 15 seconds of running and 30 seconds of walking.”

The most important thing is to have fun and remember why you’re running and the people you’re running for.

“[Survivors and people battling breast cancer] feel that love and feel that energy from the crowd and that when they cross that finish line they say ‘You know what, if I can do that I can do anything,’” Deegan said.

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Anyone wanting to register can do so online until 4 p.m. Saturday.

First Coast News will have team coverage of the marathon Sunday from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. on air and continuing after online.