Mom Runs NYC Marathon for Child Who Died of Brain Tumor at 16: 'I'm So Happy She Was My Daughter'
The mom and her daughter Marit were planning to run the Disney Princess Half Marathon together when Marit received her diagnosis
One runner in Sunday’s TCS New York City Marathon trained for the race in a deeply sentimental way — along a route that spelled her late daughter’s name.
“I call it Marit’s run,” Jennifer Swenson, whose 16-year-old daughter Marit died of a brain tumor in August 2017, told Today. “The hardest part was the ‘R.'”
Over a year after losing her daughter, Swenson — who also has sons Bjorn, 15, Birk, 12, and 10-year-old twins Anders and Soren with husband Peter Swenson, 49 — is running the marathon to raise money for research of Marit’s disease. Her fundraising page for the National Brain Tumor Society has raked in more than $32,000, exceeding its goal.
She also aims to raise awareness. “Neil Armstrong’s daughter died of a DIPG tumor 40 years ago and nothing as far as treatment has changed in 40 years, despite people’s efforts,” Swenson told CNN. “That’s the word I want to get out: There is a type of pediatric cancer that there’s been no progress on in 40 years despite doctors’ best efforts.”
On her fundraising page, Swenson remembered her daughter as an avid runner. “Marit loved many things, but she loved to run!!!” Swenson wrote. “When she was a little girl, she raced her brothers around the backyard. Marit … loved competing in elementary, middle school and high school track. In fact, Marit’s name is still on the record board at her elementary school for the 5th-grade girls’ pacer running test!”
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Swenson noted that her last run with her daughter was an eight-mile trek around Minnesota’s Como Lake a month before Marit’s diagnosis. “She kicked my butt!” Swenson said. “She was so genuinely happy to have completed that training run with me on such a beautiful winter day.”
As she has prepared for the marathon, Swenson has experienced highs and lows. “Some days it’s, ‘I’m so happy she was my daughter,'” she explained to Today. “Other days it’s sadness, or anger that in this advanced society, there isn’t anything we can do about this.”
“I knew I wanted to do this to honor and remember her and to raise awareness,” Swenson added. “I thought, ‘I can do this and still grieve and take care of my boys.'”