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Running was a passion that Jennifer Swenson shared with her teen daughter, Marit. But when the Minnesota mom of five runs in the TCS New York City Marathon on Sunday, she'll do it on her own, honoring her brave girl who passed away last year from an agressive brain tumor.
The mother-daughter team were training for the Disney Princess Half Marathon when Marit started to complain of headaches. Doctors found a peach-sized tumor in her brain — a pediatric high-grade glioma brain tumor with a mutation where there is no long-term survival. After a battle that included surgery, radiation and participation in a clinical trial, 16 year-old Marit passed away in August 2017, leaving behind her mom and dad, Peter Swenson, 49, and her four younger brothers, Bjorn, 15, Birk, 12 and twins Anders and Soren, 10.
"I knew I wanted to do this to honor and remember her and to raise awareness," Swenson told TODAY about her decision to run the marathon. "I thought, 'I can do this and still grieve and take care of my boys.'"
Swenson, 47, said that running has been a form of therapy for her, giving her a chance to "slow down, and think and feel." She said that it brings up many different emotions. "Some days it's, 'I'm so happy she was my daughter.' Other days it's sadness, or anger that in this advanced society, there isn't anything we can do about this."
Swenson pointed out that there is no cure for the type of brain tumor Marit had, and no discernible cause and that there has been no improvement in outcomes of children that have pediatric high-grade glioma. "The treatment for this is the same now as it was 40 years ago."
Swenson, who has done marathons in the past, was inspired by an article she read in Runner's World in which a man ran a route that spelled out the name of a deceased loved one. Using Google Maps, she plotted out a 9-mile run that spelled out Marit's name — the run would be an important and emotional part of her training for NYC.
"I call it Marit's run," she said. "The hardest part was the 'R'."
Swenson said she encountered some obstacles along the way including an area of weeds she had to run through and even some barbed wire.
But she made it, and now, with a team of her girlfriends cheering her on in New York, she will run representing Marit and the National Brain Tumor Society, a group committed to finding a cure for brain tumors. Swenson hopes people will support Project Impact A Campaign to Defeat Pediatric Brain Tumors, an initiative that NBTS has with St Jude Children's Research Hospital.
Click here to help Swenson reach her fundraising goal before Sunday's marathon and to support the important research that affects the lives of kids.