BEDFORD, OH (WOIO) - Every step Leah Backo takes training for the Cleveland Marathon is for a cause close to her heart.
"The summer right before I was in 8th grade my mom got sick. She was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic breast cancer," said Backo.
Backo started running to stay in shape, but her motivation soon shifted. After her mom's diagnosis, she ran to clear her mind.
"At the time, I was only 13 and I didn't really know how to process that," she said. "I just needed a way to escape and a way to process my thoughts and my feelings and running just became this way for me to just get away."
In 2015, her mom underwent brain surgery to remove a massive tumor. Inspired by her bravery, Backo decided to be courageous, too, and signed up for her first Cleveland Marathon.
"Not only was it my first full marathon, 26.2 miles... The weather was horrible and it was probably the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my entire life," Backo said.
When times got tough, she kept her mom in mind.
"I definitely thought about dropping out, but I thought... if she can deal with all that and come out on the other side, I can run these 26 miles," Backo said. "She is a trooper and she obviously has the strength of I don't know 1000 marathon runners."
Backo went back the following year to run the Cleveland Marathon in 2017. This year marks marathon number three for her. Backo said it's all because of her mom, who will continue to inspire her every mile along the way.
"It puts a little extra pep in your step when you see your family along the way, for sure. And when you see the reason the reason that you're running along the way. There's really nothing more inspiring than that," she said.