Woman Runs in Four Miler for Fifth Time, Raises Large Donation - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Woman Runs in Four Miler for Fifth Time, Raises Large Donation

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The Gulch Girls The Gulch Girls

Cancer survivors and their supporters are gearing up for one of Charlottesville's biggest races this weekend. The Women's Four Miler is Virginia's largest all-female race.

As organizers prepare for Saturday's race, one woman with a very personal reason for running is preparing to raise one of the largest donation amounts.

As Ann Marie Smith lines up at the starting mark this weekend, she does so not just as a cancer survivor, but as a mentor and symbol of hope for others still battling the disease. Smith is a mother of three who lives in Charlottesville.

"We love Charlottesville, it's a great town," she said.

Five years ago, when she was 38, Smith found a lump in her breast. "I thought it was probably something harmless," she said.

She went to see her OB-GYN and from there ended up at the UVA Cancer Center where she had a mammogram.

"I went from thinking it was something benign to quickly being fairly frightened because they held me there," Smith said.

A doctor later diagnosed her with cancer. She had a cyst in her breast and her lymph nodes were also affected. She ended up having a modified radical mastectomy as well as six rounds of chemotherapy followed by radiation.

Smith then developed an infection in her thumb "which was random but very dangerous," she said. She spent 10 days in the hospital for the infection, and shortly after, with her immune system still suppressed, she decided to walk the Four Miler for the first time.

"I was bald and not in good health in that point," Smith said.

A group of her neighbors joined her and they called themselves the Gulch Girls, a nickname for their neighborhood.

The next year Smith did the Four Miler Training Program and was able to run the race. "That was no small feat given that I had never run more than a mile before in my life," she said. "So that was pretty exciting."

The Gulch Girls have continued to have a Women's Four Miler team each of the following years, but this is the first year they've decided to raise money.

"This is my fifth year cancer-versary and I thought in celebration of that it was time to do some fundraising for the Women's Four Miler, and in turn for the UVA Breast Center which was so very supportive and good to me during my treatment," said Smith. "I feel so lucky to have such good support and care here in Charlottesville and I think that's important and to give back locally."

The eight women on this year's Gulch Girls team have raised more than $8,000 toward their goal of $10,000. They have high hopes that they'll reach their goal.

"I think part of your responsibility as a cancer survivor is to be there for others that are in the midst of their treatment because that is a very frightening time and when I was sick and going through treatment other cancer survivors reached out to me and that made a huge difference," Smith said.

"One cancer survivor can support another in a way that no other person can," she said.

The Women's Four Miler is Saturday at Foxfield starting at 8 a.m. Race registration is full, but people are still encouraged to go out and support the runners. You also have until September 21 to donate for the race.

Click here for more on the Gulch Girls and all other Four Miler teams.

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