JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- This weekend thousands of people will converge on Jacksonville from every state nationwide and many nations for the fourth annual 26.2 with Donna, The National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer.
Every year, regardless of whatever the weather has been like leading up to the race, race day conditions are beautiful.
"I'm fond of crediting my angels for that," said First Coast News anchor and race founder, Donna Deegan, referring to Susan Mehrlust.
"Or as I call her, chief angel in charge of weather," Deegan said.
Mehrlust was a member of Deegan's board of directors for The Donna Foundation, a non-profit Deegan started to help breast cancer patients with expenses as they go through treatment.
"She was my mentor in all things positive," Deegan said. "She was also a major force in helping to get this marathon off the ground. Her spirit is all over it."
Mehrlust was diagnosed with an agressive breast cancer and told she had less than six months to live.
She died the year before the inaugural marathon, after creating new chapters in the medical history books, surviving 10 years longer than doctors predicted.
"Susan never let the cancer define her," said Deegan. "To me that's the true measure of the term 'survivor'. Regardless of how long you're here or what ultimately happens, a survivor doesn't let cancer define her. That was Susan."
Just before she died, realizing she wouldn't be there to see the inaugural race, Mehrlust told Deegan she'd make sure to do her part.
"I'll talk to the big guy about the weather," she said. "You leave that job up to me."
Runners will arrive in Jacksonville on Friday and Saturday, and the marathon will begin at 7:30 a.m. Sunday. The forecast?
"Perfect as always," said Deegan. "Lows around 40 and highs around 65, Sunny with low humidity. That's my girl."
An interview Deegan conducted with Mehrlust is posted with this story; it ran at the celebration of Mehrlust's life in 2007.
First Coast News