Posted at: 09/21/2012 5:13 PM
| Updated at: 09/26/2012 1:42 PM
By: Benita Zahn
SCHROON LAKE - Saturday 650 people will toe the line for the Adirondack half marathon in Schroon Lake.
Another 550 will tackle the full marathon, which is 26.2 miles.
Among them will be a runner who can't help but inspire you.
These are the marathon maniacs -- it's a group forged by miles of running and a Facebook page connecting them. But there's more. For these four, running has, in a sense, saved their lives.
"I was a 250 pound pack a day smoker," Paul Arroyo said.
Sam Louie, a master sergeant in the Air Force shed 35 pounds by running.
Talisa Hayes once tipped the scales at 200 pounds.
Then there's the diminutive 38-year-old Julia Khvasechko. Fourteen years ago the New York City native struggled to walk -- the result of treatment for a brain tumor.
"I was scared out of mind," she said.
She credits her doctors, therapists and her own iron will for not only regaining the ability to walk, but to run. Five years after her surgery she crossed her first of 60 marathon finish lines -- that first run in memory of a young man who lost his battle to the same disease she beat.
"When I came back to the office I was runner girl, not cancer girl," Khvasechko said.
In marathon maniac world she's reached titanium level, completing 30 marathons in 30 states in 365 days. Only the 27th woman in the world to do so.
Now Khvasechko inspires other runners by helping them cross the finish line, giving back to a sport she says has given her more than she ever imagined -- including her boyfriend.
"I met him at a marathon," she explained. "So when I tell you running has given me so much it has given me the greatest love of my life."