Runner Jessica Shin poses atop Mt. Si near North Bend, WA.
Runner Jessica Shin poses atop Mt. Si near North Bend, WA.

Rain or shine, Jessica Shin runs six miles a day. Ultimately, it’s great for her health, but it all started because of the failing health of someone close to her.

Shin, a senior at the University of Washington Tacoma campus, is running to train for an up-coming marathon she is dedicating to her cousin, Jeannie Chea, who was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago. Chea was younger than most breast cancer patients – she was in her mid 30’s, married, and with three children. The diagnosis devastated the family.

“There is no history of breast cancer in the family so it was a pretty big shock,” said Shin.

In June, Shin will join approximately 27,000 other runners and walkers to fight against cancer in the Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon & half Marathon. The annual event, to be held on June 25, benefits the American Cancer Society, a nation-wide, community-based voluntary health organization “dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem.”

Fortunately, after surgery and chemotherapy, Shin’s cousin, Chea, is now healthy and completely recovered. An invaluable lesson learned by the Shin and Chea family is the importance of being active during treatment. Jeannie Chea was encouraged to run to manage her stress and anxiety and toughened it out despite rough days during treatment. This energy inspired her husband, Jun, to also run. He thought if she can do it when she is ill, so can he.

Now the couple both run marathons and continue their health wellness, encouraging Shin to join them. The three plan to run the Rock and Roll Marathon in June — an event that also features cheerleaders and live bands playing all types of music throughout the run to pump up the runners and raise the fun factor. But it is the cause of the marathon, with proceeds going to the American Cancer Society, that has Shin and Chea really pumped up.

The National Institute for Cancer reports the disease is the most common form of cancer for women with an average of 122 diagnoses per 100,000 women annually. Frequent self-examinations and annual mammograms are prescribed to help catch the cancer early and improve the survival rate.

Breast cancer occurs in women and some men at all stages of life. Breast cancer data from 2003-2007 shows it affects a wide age range: 1.9 percent of those diagnosed were between 20 and 34 years of age; 10.5 percent between 35 and 44; 22.6 percent between 45 and 54; 24.1 percent between 55 and 64; 19.5 percent between 65 and 74; and 21.4 percent for women between 75 and 85 plus years of age.

Shin said she is training for the half marathon portion of the event – about 13 miles. With two months to go, she is banking on her high school track and field experience and developing stamina to take her to the finish line. The run starts from Tukwila, winds along Lake Washington and finishes outside of Qwest Field in downtown Seattle. Both the full and half marathon runners start together at Gateway Corporate Center on Interurban Ave in Tukwila, run through Tukwila, through the scenic shores of Lake Washington for mile 4 through mile 9. Then, full marathoners split off for 2 miles on the floating Lake Washington Bridge. After 2 miles, both courses meet again and run next to each other on the Interstate 90 Express Lanes. All participants head into downtown Seattle, where the half marathon splits off and finishes downtown outside Qwest Field.

A two-day Health & Fitness Expo at the Qwest Event Center will kick off race weekend, featuring more than one hundred fitness retailers, exhibits and interactive clinics. A musical party concludes Saturday, June 25 with a post-race finish line concert headlined by Tonic. It’s free and open to the public.

Twenty Rock and Roll Marathons are held throughout the United States including Arizona, California, Colorado, Texas, Tennessee, New Orleans, and Florida. Prizes are awarded to the top 3 female and top three male runners and by age groups for the half and full marathon.

The excitement is brewing for Shin and her running partners. But, they’ve never forgotten the harrowing experience and legacy of cancer that touched their family. Shin says the cancer and treatment experience “…was such a test of faith.”

“Through this tragedy, we continue to believe that God has a plan. We’re very blessed and thankful for witnessing God’s miracle of healing.”

Shin plans to run the half Marathon in June with the goal to finish in three hours rather than the four hours as prescribed. Not stopping there, she also plans to run the Portland Marathon in the fall. With her cousin’s courage, Shin has the mind, body and heart to finish the race and make a difference.

 

For more information about the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon, please visit seattle.competitor.com or call (800) 311-1255. The June 25 run is a signature Seafair Summer Celebration event.

 

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