That Girl: Meet Donna Deegan, Founder Of The Breast Cancer Marathon

Continuing with our new column, “That Girl”, we are celebrating the accomplishments of real women who make health and fitness a priority because we know that true athletes come in all shapes, sizes, ages and athletic abilities from around the world. So this week we’re celebrating Donna Deegan, an accomplished runner, wife, mother, news anchor, breast cancer survivor and founder of the 26.2 with Donna Breast Cancer Marathon.


Donna Deegan (pictured here with husband, Tim)

Jacksonville Beach, Florida

News Anchor, Gannett Broadcasting

Founder 26.2 with Donna, The National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer

President, The Donna Foundation

Fitness/health accomplishment you are most proud of:

I was only a few months away from launching our inaugural marathon in 2008 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer for the third time. I had to have a portion of my lung removed and begin chemo immediately. More than anything I wanted to run our inaugural race, but in order to get to my lung the doctors had to cut out of piece of one of my ribs, and I was really almost immobilized for weeks. Once I got the green light to run again, I was only able to do a fraction of the miles I needed in terms of training. Yet on race day, I was able to complete the marathon. I was slow, but I felt like an Olympian crossing the finish line. Best feeling ever.

What inspires you to get fit every day?

I know one of the keys to staying healthy is to stay fit. Even in terms of breast cancer, exercise decreases my odds of recurrence. Every week in our Galloway program I train with other survivors, and tons of folks who are right off the couch, excited to get started for the very first time. They give me a lot of motivation to keep going. I also want to be a good example to other survivors out there. Maybe if they see me doing it they’ll realize they can too.

What do you do when you don’t feel like working out?

When I get up and say, ugh not today, I remind myself of how good I’ll feel when I’m done. I know from so many years of doing it how much more energy I will have during the day if I just push past the “I don’t want to” and get it done.

Favorite energizing meal:

I do my best to avoid gluten and dairy, so for me it’s some kind of fish–-most likely salmon–and a pile of greens. I also love green shakes. Kale, broccoli, cucumber and fist full of ginger in the juicer makes me feel like superwoman.

What’s your favorite way to chill post-workout?

I usually come home and make a big breakfast with my husband and depending on how early the work out was (in my case usually very) I’ll grab a power nap.

What is your top kick-ass workout?

My best flat out, take-me-to-the-limit-workout is my cross training at Timed Exercise. It’s an interval weight training, exercise class where I have to finish a certain number of reps in 30 minutes. Great fat burner and muscle builder.

Where is your favorite/most unique place you’ve ever exercised?

Wow, that’s a tough one. I’ve been to so many wonderful places to run. I’d probably have to say Costa Rica. We visit a little beach there mostly for surfing, but there is an eight-mile loop that takes me from the road to the woods and then a long a hard-packed beach that is just heaven. Day-in and day-out though, I can’t beat my own back yard. The beautiful beaches of Jacksonville. Perfect for running.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned through sports?

The biggest lesson I’ve learned through sports is that good things happen when I push through those walls that inevitable come up. It’s a great life lesson on never giving up. I honestly think we’re only defeated in life, when we choose to be. It all depends on how hard we are willing to work and how much heart we bring to the process. Sports–in my case, running–is a very personal experience, but at the same time, a great chance to connect with all the other humans out there with you. My mantra is always love over fear. The most successful athletes I know are those who love what they do and the people they do it with.


Calling all female athletes (that means you!): Do you surf, ski, swim, climb mountains, lift weights, mountain bike, compete in races or stay fit with any other sport? We want to inspire other women with your story. Send an email to with the subject “That Girl”.



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    • Lainey

      What an inspiring and amazing woman. So many people feel they don’t have time to exercise. In my opinion (and Donna is proof) we don’t have any excuses not to. Thank you for sharing this amazing story!