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9-year-old cancer survivor will participate in Bakersfield Half Marathon

Posted at 6:42 PM, Nov 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-11 21:59:57-05

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — On Sunday the 4th annual Bakersfield Marathon will take place, bringing thousands of runners to race through the city.

While many will be competing for a fast finish time, 23ABC met with one young participant who has a different definition of winning.

Nine-year-old Anastasia Pursel loves to run but faces a challenge when it comes to making her dream come true of finishing a marathon. Luckily on Sunday morning, she'll have some friends there to give her a little extra push.

"Anastasia just wanted to run, Anastasia just loved running," said Belinda Pursel, Anastasia's mother.

And as Belinda puts it, Anastasia's life so far has been like a marathon.

"We've been on an amazing journey, and just like running, there's ups and there's downs," she said.

Anastasia is a cancer survivor and also has Down Syndrome. She was diagnosed with leukemia at 17 months old.

After six months of treatment, Anastasia showed no signs of cancer. And then as she grew up, she found a passion. In 2005 her mom started running with a running group. And that inspired Anastasia to run. She participated in smaller events like the annual Turkey Trot.

"And it just made her happy so we just continued with it," Belinda said.

Anastasia liked running so much, she participated in a half marathon. But that wouldn't come without its obstacles. Luckily James Miller, who is also a cancer survivor and is in her mom's running group, offered up a specialized stroller.

"It is built for special needs children," Miller said.

Miller, along with help from runner Bryan Matthews, helped push Anastasia through most of the Bakersfield half marathon last year. She finished on her own two feet.

"When they placed that lanyard over her neck, I think it was a taste of victory for her. It was a taste of, wow I accomplished this. It built a message in her that says I can," Belinda said.

Last year, Anastasia's team name was "The Victory is Mine. This year she, Miller and Matthews will again take on the half marathon, but with a different name.

"Now our team name is no limits. And it's to get the word out for all exceptional children, that there's no limits for these kids," said Scott Pursel, Anastasia's father.

Miller says this year, Anastasia will run more of the half marathon. and hopefully next year or the year after she will be able to run a 5K on her own.He says his running group is trying to get the funds together to buy even more strollers so that they can help more kids accomplish their dreams.