AGS teacher Jill Smigielski runs half marathon


April Carr, Writer

AGS middle school teacher Jill Smigielski has been running half marathons for Project Purple for roughly four years after her dad passed away from pancreatic cancer. On Oct. 17 Smigelski will run her fourth half marathon to raise money for Project Purple, in order to find a cure for pancreatic cancer. 

 “My dad was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer in March of 2009 and passed away in October of 2009. Watching what he endured and went through was not only eye-opening, but gut-wrenching. I watched my dad go from a healthy 66 year old man to a very sick man in a matter of months. He lost about 40-50 pounds, had a lot of pain when he ate and got to a point where he couldn’t do the things he enjoyed. After he passed, I met more people who were younger and dealing with this cancer.”

According to the Project Purple website, they are a non-profit organization that was created to help patients who are dealing with Pancreatic Cancer. They provide finical aid, help patients connect with others fighting the same disease, and raise money by holding endurance events. 

“They are a nonprofit that raises money via people running marathons, and half marathons. They also have some people who do CrossFit and raise money via events with them. They give money to researchers, help patients with bills and give care blankets to patients. I applied to run the Detroit Half four years ago with them.” 

To avoid getting tired while running, Smigielski uses different techniques to help her stay motivated throughout the half marathons and often runs them with her friends.

“I talk to runners around me and I focus on one mile at a time,” Smigielski said. “The crowds are a huge help too. The biggest motivator for me is carrying with me the names of 13 or more people that have pancreatic cancer or who have died from it, thinking of them always pushes me on.”

Smigielski feels because of her being in good condition, she’s obligated to do this because she is lucky enough to be able to run it.

“I am healthy, my job is easy compared to those who are dealing with Pancreatic Cancer,” Smigielski said.

Leading up to the half marathons, Smigielski does some preparation by training weekly.

 “I try to run three to four miles a couple of times a week,” Smigielski said.“Once a week while training, I run a longer run. The longest training run has been 12 miles.”

Because of the global pandemic, the half marathon will look slightly different from previous years being that it’ll be virtual.

“This year will be very different since the half is virtual so we will not have the crowds, the atmosphere or the pre-race excitement,” Smigielski said,  “but, Pancreatic cancer doesn’t stop so we must run.” 

With organizations like Project Purple, others can do their part in raising money to help patients in need. November is Pancreatic Cancer awareness month and the annual Fenton Area Public Schools Purple Out will be held on Nov. 19, World Pancreatic Cancer Day. Smigielski asks that people dress in purple to support and help educate about this cancer.  More information about Project Purple can be found at