Judy Williams credits Gasparilla Distance Classic for saving her life

Running is a major part of Judy Williams life. She moved to Florida in 1989 and has run in almost every Gasparilla Distance Classic race since.

In 2015, she and her then 16-year-old daughter trained to run all four Gasparilla races, a total of 30-plus miles in two days.

"That year I consider and credit Gasparilla for saving my life," said Williams.

During the course of the weekend, Williams admits that she did not drink enough water to properly rehydrate after all those miles.

"So that night, I would up in the hospital because I kept throwing up. I was dehydrated and could not stop throwing up no matter how much IV they were giving me," she recalls.

In the hospital, the doctors performed a CT scan of her stomach, and that is when they found a cyst. That cyst turned out to be stage 2 ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is often called the "silent killer" because it does not have many symptoms until the later stages. Oftentimes when it's too late. Without that CT scan, Williams' cancer may have continued to grow.

"I had lost my husband about a year and a half earlier, so my daughters were facing the fact that they might lose their second parent. It was just extraordinary that they found my cancer at stage 2," Williams said.

Following the diagnosis, Williams had an operation to remove the cancer and spent 18 weeks in chemotherapy. The following year in 2016, after the treatments, she and her daughter laced back up their shoes to run all four Gasparilla Distance Classic races again.

"It was extremely emotional the year after I had the chemo and operation," she recalls.

This year, Williams' daughter will come home from college to run the races again. They will line up for the 15K race Saturday and the half marathon on Sunday. It is a new challenge from the Gasparilla Distance Classic called "Michelob Ultra Pure Gold Challenge."

posted Thursday January 24th