Cheer on runner Tessa Wehrman at the ING New York City Marathon

Two years ago, Tessa Wehrman was recovering from a breast-cancer diagnosis and watching the marathon on TV. This year, she's running it.

Tessa Wehrman, 29

Tessa Wehrman, 29: "Cancer is just another kind of marathon."

Tessa Wehrman, 29: "Cancer is just another kind of marathon." Photo: Caroline Voagen Nelson

A veteran runner, Wehrman’s tackled more than her fair share of races, but this year’s New York City Marathon holds special meaning: The Astoria, Queens, resident learned she had breast cancer at 26, a month after her best finish ever. Now, three years later, she’s kicked the tumor’s ass and is ready to whup the marathon just as hard.

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What about running is so therapeutic for you? The day after I was diagnosed, I remember waking up at 5am and thinking, Oh my God, this is really still happening.… And I had my moment of knowing I was going to start breaking down and crying. So I went on a run. A friend whose sister had cancer explained it to me by saying that when you’re running, your guard goes down and you don’t feel that pity, because you’re doing something strong.

What’s been your most memorable race? I was supposed to run the Brooklyn Half Marathon the day I ended up getting a double mastectomy. A year later, I ran the race. It was a moment to reflect on how far I’d come.

How did running affect your mental and physical state while you were sick?
It helped me recover from surgery much quicker. I had to take six weeks off from running after both the double mastectomy and the reconstructive surgery about five or six months later. The second was about a week before the New York City Marathon. I watched the race from my bed, and I swore to myself that I’d run the marathon the next year. Mentally, there’s something about a marathon that’s incredibly grueling and daunting, and it’s hard to fathom running that far.

A marathon seems like a good metaphor for cancer. Yeah, it was going to suck for a while, but in the end, I knew I’d make it across the finish line and everything would be better. The day I had the double mastectomy, I remember thinking, Well, I was supposed to be running the Brooklyn Half, but this is just another kind of marathon. It doesn’t mean I’m not going to get back to the races I actually enjoy.

Do you have plans for how you’ll celebrate after this year’s race? I’ll have a beer—definitely. [Laughs] I haven’t thought about where yet—it’ll probably depend on if I have to be carried to the bar or not!

The ING New York City Marathon happens Sun 3.

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Editor: Marley Lynch (@marleyasinbob)

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