Renee Seman ran six of the world’s major marathons after she learned she had breast cancer

When Renee Seman learned she had Stage 4 breast cancer in 2014, she set a goal for herself: to use her remaining time to run marathons. Six of them, in fact, in New York, Chicago, Boston, Berlin, Tokyo and London.

Together, they constitute the Abbott World Marathon Majors, a collection of the most distinguished marathons in the world. Since 2006, only about 6,500 people have completed all six, the organization said, including Ms. Seman, who finished her final race, the London Marathon, in April.

“She knew that it was incurable from the moment it was diagnosed, and she was determined to make the most of her time,” Ms. Seman’s husband, David Seman, 48, said of her illness last week.

“It almost increased her focus and determination,” he said.

Ms. Seman, who died on Jan. 29, Mr. Seman said, ran all six races after receiving her diagnosis, drawing the attention and support of runners and cancer survivors. A profile about her in Runners World was published shortly before last year’s London Marathon. In addition to her husband, she is survived by her 6-year-old daughter, Diane. They live on Long Island.

It isn’t uncommon for patients facing a terminal diagnosis to make bucket lists of goals they want to accomplish before they die, said Melissa Ring, the director of regulatory and compliance at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

“People will take a look back at their life when there is an initial shock of a terminal diagnosis,” said Ms. Ring, who has worked in hospice and palliative care for over 20 years.

Ms. Seman started running to become healthy before having her first child, her husband said. She started by running 5Ks and 10Ks, and was training for a half-marathon in Brooklyn when she received her diagnosis, she told Runner’s World.

After learning she had cancer, Mr. Seman said, she thought of only two things: spending as much time as possible with her daughter, and earning the Abbott World Marathon Majors’ Six Star Finishers medal.

In 2019, Ms. Seman ran her last two marathons, in Tokyo and London, eight weeks apart. This required her to train as much as she could while undergoing chemotherapy.

Ms. Seman did not pause or panic. Instead, after Berlin, she began working with Daphne Matalene, 46, a running coach.

“Even when you are super healthy and super trained it still takes a lot out of you,” said Ms. Matalene, who has run five of the six marathons. “Renee was totally undeterred by that. Her goal was not to win; it was not even to run her fastest.”

Ms. Matalene came up with a training regimen that worked around Ms. Seman’s treatment schedule. Ms. Seman would run easy miles in the morning and then have chemotherapy treatment in the afternoon. Days later, once she had recovered, she would do a long run of 12 to 16 miles.

Many runners who try to complete the six races are dealing with health issues or recently had a health scare, said Lorna Campbell, a spokeswoman for the Abbott World Marathon Majors.

posted Friday February 7th
by Sandra E. Garcia