Novice Brooksie Way Half Marathoner races for 3-year-old family member

By Jen Bucciarelli

Training for a half marathon is no small feat, but Julianne Reyes of Rochester said finding inspiration and motivation for the upcoming 13.1-mile journey was easy. Three-year-old Cecylia Weeks, who has been fighting Wilm’s cancer since July, is the source of inspiration who gets Reyes through each run and will push her to the Brooksie Way finish line on Sunday, Sept. 30.

Novice half marathon runner Julianne Reyes stands with her cousin, Valerie Weeks, Cecylia and sister Ainsley.

Reyes knew she would run for her second cousin after hearing what she described as a moving speech at the AdvoKate race in downtown Rochester on August 4. The speaker related running up and down hills to the trials that a family experiences when having a son or daughter with cancer, from emotional to physical and financial costs.

“It really hit me,” Reyes said, “I’m running this for (Cecylia); I run the hills for her.”

In its fifth year, the Brooksie Way Half Marathon and 5k races begin on Oakland University’s campus and wind through the streets of Rochester and Rochester Hills. The annual event is held with a vision from its founder, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, of increasing physical activity in the community.

Reyes is not only going to finish a race she never thought possible because of her young relative, she is also running to raise money for Cecylia’s treatment.

A week before the half marathon and Reyes has almost achieved her goal of raising $1,000. Many members of the Rochester community have donated and have been rather generous, she said.

In lieu of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Reyes aims to raise awareness of Wilm’s cancer, too.

Wilm’s cancer is a common kidney disease that affects children, typically ages two to three and is known as nephroblastoma, according to the Children’s Cancer and Blood Foundation.

In July, Cecylia was diagnosed with stage four Wilm’s cancer, which had spread to other parts of her body. Since, she has had several tumors removed and has endured chemo and radiation therapy.

But, “For the first time since Labor Day, we will have a little down time away from hospitals and doctor’s offices,” Valerie Weeks wrote in a blog update about Cecylia’s daily progress. To follow Cecylia’s story, visit


Married to Patrick, the 39-year-old mother of four—Gina, 9, Joshua, 7, Jessica, 6 and Luke, 3—Reyes said her family is a resounding theme when it comes to running.

“I used to swim in high school and in college and I can bike well, but I could never run,” she said.”

So, last spring when her daughter, Gina, joined a program through school to run a 5k, Reyes began to train, too.

After completing the six-week “Couch to 5K” program with Brooksie Way group leaders, Reyes joined the BW11 half marathon training team.

More than 300 runners have been training in groups like BW11 and practice the Galloway method that uses walk/run interval training to help runners reach 13.1 miles.

Runners of team BW11 prepare for the upcoming Brooksie Way Half Marathon with a practice race on Sunday, Sept. 16. The group has been training since April and many, like Julianne Reyes, are excited to run their first half marathon, which is 13.1 miles.

“The Galloway method has allowed me to do it,” Reyes said, “Anyone can do it with the Brooksie program.”

Reyes said she enjoys training with a team like BW11 because “you chit-chat the whole time and that’s what makes it fun and easy to do the longer distances.”

Sue Barnes, Brooksie Way training and community relations coordinator runs with Reyes and the BW11 team.

“We have people from ages 18 to 81 in the program,” she said in an email response. “This is not a program where we try to get people going faster or longer; the point is that we want people to finish.”

Barnes, also a Rochester native, has run in every Brooksie Way half marathon and loves seeing the transformation of program participants from beginning to race day.

“They are proud of themselves and I am so proud of them,” she said.

More than 3,000 participants have signed up to run this Sunday and as many as 5,500 are expected to turn out.

“With this being the fifth year, we have a great medal,” Sue Barnes, Brooksie Way training and community relations coordinator, said.

Special recognition will be given to fifth-year-participants prior to the race and a new medal will be given to all finishing runners.

“We have entertainment every mile, from bands to a bagpiper to a drum line to cheerleaders,” Barnes said, “There will be excitement on the course.”

The half marathon begins at 8:05 a.m. on Oakland University’s campus, followed by the 5k run at 8:15 a.m. and a one-mile race at 8:25 a.m.

For more Brooksie Way Half Marathon race information, please visit

To learn more about Cecylia Weeks, be sure to check out or her Facebook page via Prayers for Cecylia Lainie Bird Weeks.

“She may be little, but she’s one tough cookie.”

A bowling fundraiser event for Cecylia will also be held on Saturday, Sept. 29 at Classic Lanes in Rochester. Registration begins at 8 p.m.; bowling begins at 8:30. The cost is $20 per person for three games and bowling shoes.

All proceeds will be donated to the Cecylia Lainie Bird Weeks Fund. Additional event information can be found on Facebook but feel free to contact Kyle Rice at 248-373-9558.

About Jen Bucciarelli

Veggie lover and aspiring word chef, reporter Jen Bucciarelli covers all things health and medicine for Rochester Media and The Community Edge. She is always on the hunt for local experts who can help improve the lives of our readers. Send her a note at

Speak Your Mind