All marathoners have their own particular motivations for running a 26.2-mile race — and for Molly Anderson, Sarah Edwards and Laura Haley, it was to honor Rosie De Queljoe Herzog, their longtime friend who is living with lupus.
As a 30th birthday surprise, the three runners flew De Queljoe Herzog from her home in Los Angeles to the Big Apple, where she was able to cheer them on as they ran the New York City Marathon on Nov. 5.
Anderson, Edwards and Haley were part of Team Life Without Lupus, the official competitive team of the Lupus Research Alliance, the largest private funder of lupus research in the world.
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The four friends shared with Fox News Digital what the experience meant to them — and how its impact is lasting well beyond that one day.
It was in 2021 when De Queljoe Herzog, a public relations professional, first started noticing symptoms, including rapid hair loss, joint pain, fatigue, swelling of her face and hands — and a malar rash (butterfly rash) on her face.
“In the early days, I attributed the hair loss to a stressful 2020 and stressful work schedule, but it turned out to be something larger,” she told Fox News Digital.
In early 2022, De Queljoe Herzog was officially diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus, an inflammatory disease that occurs when the immune system attacks its own tissues.
She was hospitalized due to a lupus flare-up shortly after that.
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“I was put on a number of drugs to help quell the flare,” she said.
“I’ve been able to taper off some of the drugs since then, but am still on a few to help keep future flares at bay. I am no longer in a flare and am back to feeling healthy and ‘normal.’”
Over a decade of friendship
The four friends, all 30 years old, attended college together at the University of Arizona, where they competed on the triathlon team and developed an “inseparable bond,” said De Queljoe Herzog.
Their friendships continued to thrive after graduation. They were in each other’s weddings and took trips together.
“We’re all so uniquely different, but have such an incredible time when we’re all together,” De Queljoe Herzog told Fox News Digital.
She was “floored” when her friends said they would be running the NYC Marathon on her behalf to support the Lupus Research Alliance.
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“It was such a selfless act of friendship and love,” she told Fox News Digital. “They know how much lupus has impacted my overall health, and to see them rally around me and around lupus research was astonishing.”
De Queljoe Herzog and her husband traveled to New York City to watch the race.
“It was such a fun weekend and race day — we were able to catch them at three different points during the race to cheer them on,” she said. “It was an emotional day that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
“They know how much lupus has impacted my overall health, and to see them rally around me and around lupus research was astonishing.”
For those who are just starting their lupus journeys, De Queljoe Herzog stressed the importance of finding a support system to lean on.
“It can be a lonely road, but friends and family make it so much more manageable — especially friends who provide an endless supply of belly laughs.”
A race to remember
For the three runners, the race represented a way to support their friend while also marking a significant accomplishment.
“As much as I would do anything to take Rosie’s symptoms and flares away, I can’t,” said Anderson, who lives in Spain and works as a sports psychologist.
“It’s difficult living so far away, but after her diagnosis, I began to brainstorm ways to support her in my own way,” she went on. “That was when I had the idea to fund-raise for lupus research and encourage her to come to support the race.”
The other two runners, Edwards and Haley, were on board right away.
“We have always been motivated by physical and athletic challenges, so this seemed like the perfect combination of a challenge for us and raising money for an amazing cause,” said Edwards, who lives in Bend, Oregon, and works as an outreach coordinator for environmental organizations.
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“I’ve always dreamed of experiencing the magic of New York City and the energy I had always heard about in the marathon setting,” she went on.
Race day exceeded the team’s expectations, the women agreed.
“Being able to run with two of my best friends for such a great purpose was incredibly gratifying and emotional,” said Anderson.
Edwards described the race as “pure magic from start to finish.”
“It was like running on cloud nine — it felt like a dream,” she said. “The energy and spectators, especially all our friends and family who came out to watch, were absolutely electric.”
She added, “My most sore muscles after the race were my cheeks from smiling the whole time.”
“Seeing Rosie at mile 18 made me remember why I was doing this, made me cry and helped me get to the finish line.”
Haley, who lives in Tucson, Arizona, and works as a physical therapist, said the best part of the race was taking the ferry to Staten Island and watching the sunrise over Manhattan with her best friends, as well as running through Brooklyn and the Bronx.
“The people were so fun and full of life, energy and support,” she said.
Haley said she struggled at around mile 16, and found herself wishing she had trained more.
“Oftentimes, while training or running the marathon, I would want to stop or ask myself, ‘Why am I doing this? This is miserable,’” she recalled.
“And those moments are when I would remember Rosie’s challenges. It would make me grateful for my healthy body and carry me through those rough times.”
Haley added, “Seeing Rosie at mile 18 made me remember why I was doing this, made me cry and helped me get to the finish line.”
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Running the marathon was “a huge joy” for all of them, said Edwards.
“And what has been even better is raising so much awareness among our family and friends through the fundraising process,” she said. “The more people know about lupus, the more support we can raise to find a cure one day.”
“Every time I got tired or frustrated during training for this race, I would think of how much frustration Rosie has been through with lupus.”
While De Queljoe Herzog is grateful for her friends’ support, they all agree that she is a huge source of motivation for them.
“Before her diagnosis, Rosie was always the most positive person I knew,” said Anderson. “She is an incredible listener and has an incredible ability to process information in a way that is productive. After her diagnosis, she was able to channel these parts of herself to listen to her body and manage her symptoms.”
Edwards said thoughts of her friend’s challenges helped get her through the race preparations.
“Every time I got tired or frustrated during training for this race, I would think of how much frustration Rosie has been through with lupus,” she told Fox News Digital.
“She is incredibly thoughtful and the kindest person I know. She motivates me to be a better person every day.”
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Albert Roy, president and CEO of Lupus Research Alliance, noted the significant impact that all of the teams make toward advancing research.
“We so appreciate how these young women and all the members of our Team Life Without Lupus ran the world’s largest marathon to raise both awareness and funds for lupus research,” he commented to Fox News Digital.
Women make up about 9 out of 10 adults with the disease.
“By pushing themselves to reach the finish line, they challenge us to keep striving to reach our goal — more treatments and ultimately a cure.”
Lupus is one of the most complex autoimmune diseases an individual can have, the organization notes. “It affects each person differently, with symptoms that are sometimes hard to detect and differ from patient to patient,” the group says on its website (lupusresearch.org).
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While anyone can get lupus, the disease most often affects women, who make up about 9 out of 10 adults with the disease, the group also notes.
The chronic autoimmune disease affects millions of people worldwide. Doctors don’t know exactly what causes lupus, but they believe that something, or a combination of things, triggers the immune system to attack the body, WebMD indicates.
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