The woman in the picture?

Why did we choose that picture of Melissa Montalto running in the 2011 New Jersey Marathon, for our blog banner?  Here’s why:

“I began running about 10 years ago and never dreamed I would run a marathon.   I have run two and the New Jersey shore has always been the backdrop.  Looking out over the ocean as I finished was always a source of calm, strength, and inspiration.  My first race was the Asbury Park Marathon 2010 and the second was The New Jersey Marathon 2011.  The NJM was my fastest time to date and soon after it ended I began planning for my next marathon and a faster finish still.

However, six weeks after my marathon pictured above, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I was only 32 years old.  I had been following a lump for six months and testing revealed it to be malignant.  It was the last thing I ever expected.  I was the mother of three small children ages 4, 6, and 7, a wife, and a fitness instructor.

Instead of getting back onto the road to begin running again, I underwent a double mastectomy and then chemotherapy.   I worked through most of my chemotherapy but was unable to do any serious running.  When the time to train for The New Jersey Marathon in 2012 came around, I found my lungs would not take me more than a few miles.   I was told my chemotherapy regimen could particularly affect the lungs.   So, I took the year off but knew I would be back to race another day.

Slowly, I began running more and more and my strength came back.  I am ready to run a marathon again and I can think of no better place to come than the NJ Shore.   The Shore is fighting back from the worst hurricane in its history.  We are both “Up & Running” again.  We are both coming back.  I hope our resilience will inspire others to realize they can overcome any challenge.”

What an inspiration Melissa is, and we are very glad that she, and her husband Nick, will return to race with us on May 5th!  Please feel free to leave a comment for Melissa, and for others.

Do you have a story of adversity overcome?  Tell us about your story here or send details to Stories@NJMarathon.org.

13 thoughts on “The woman in the picture?

  1. What a beautiful story. You truly are an inspiration, Melissa! This marathon will be my first (at age 51). I will think of your strength and determination during the marathon, and use it to see me to the finish line. Best of luck to you on May 5th!

  2. Hi Julie. I know many people have a story; it is my hope to give many like yourself inspiration. I admire you for taking on this challenge at age 51 for the first time. In everything we do I think, “attitude is half the battle”. Run strong and best of luck to you too!

  3. Melissa, YOU are an inspiration! I feel blessed to know you & your story motivates me! Be blessed & I know you will give it your all!!

  4. Melissa…you are the perfect person to be on this banner! God bless and thanks for motivating so many of us!

  5. Melissa, Congrats on this wonderful story. We are so proud and lucky to have you as our instructor/trainer and friend. We continue to admire the dedication and energy you bring to every class. You constantly raise the bar and challenge us to work hard and to be strong. You do all this with a beautiful smile and positive attitude too…You truly are exceptional!
    We love ya….Mark and Fran

  6. AWESOME!!!! I am so excited for you to be “up and running” this year. My best friend just spent 2012 getting diagnosed, having a double mast. and going through chemo and reconstruction all at the age of 36 having just had a baby 6 months prior. It really threw me for a loop. You see my hubby died in 1999 (melanoma) when i was just 25 and I hadn’t had anyone that close to me diagnosed until her diagnosis. It brought back so many emotions. But I knew she’d beat it. I continued running and training for the NYC Marathon (which of course didn’t happen because of Sandy) as i raised money for StupidCancer.org. Running brought me back to life after my tragic loss. And I wanted to do what i could to honor her. I ended up running the Philly marathon last november and when I battled mile 23 i thought of her chemo and bone pain and painful removal of drains and feeling so beaten down and it gave me the strength to say “i am healthy and i am strong and I will not stop until I cross that finish”. I did! And I PR’ed. I broke the 5 hour mark (4:57). I’ll be running NJ this May. I wish you continued health and beautiful running-filled days…..I’m so grateful to the NJ marathon organization for sharing this story with everyone.

  7. Hello Sally…….Thank you for sharing your story also. Through everything I have found much comfort in talking with people. It gives us all an opportunity to vent. Nothing is easy when it comes to the loss of a loved one or the diagnosis of cancer. I consider us fortunate to be able to express our feelings through running, a way that is so truly empowering. Continue to build strength and stay strong……wishing you the best this May. p.s. tell your friend attitude is half the battle! I wish her great health in the years to come.

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