SALT LAKE CITY — Heather Hulbert's friends and family don't share her passion for running.
But later this month, they will engage in the sport that brought her joy and peace, even as she battled colon cancer, in hopes of honoring her and raising awareness about the disease that killed her a year ago this week.
"She was so passionate about running," said her friend Rhonda Jackson, who will join Heather's sister and some other friends in running in memory of Hulbert in the fourth annual Running of the Leopards 5K on March 24. "She just loved it. And when she got sick she was worried that she would never be able to run again."
Jackson and her friends, who will wear pink shirts decorated with Heather's picture, hope to do more than just honor her memory.
They will be talking about screenings for colon cancer, as well as raising money for a donation in her name.
"Our hope is that everyone will take getting a colonoscopy seriously, including physicians, who might think that you are too young, but as we have all learned, you are never too young when symptoms are present," said Jackson.
While none of the members of "Friends for Heather" are the kind of runners Hulbert was, they're hoping to have a little help from above.
"We're hoping she's going to be our angel," Jackson said, laughing.
The last race Hulbert ran was the Wasatch Back Ragnar Relay in June 2010. It was a short window between her diagnosis and the relapse that eventually took her life on March 4, 2011. She was 43.
"She was so happy to finish that race," Jackson said. "It meant so much to her. It was right after that that she got sick again. It really frustrated her that she couldn't run."
Heather's sister ran in her place on the 2011 team and said she felt Heather urging her along the entire time.
"She was never a quitter," Jackson said. "It was almost like she didn't feel pain. She just kept going. We feel like she'll be with us saying, 'Come on! Don't quit!' She'll be with us."
The 4-year-old race is a fundraiser for East High School's PTSA. Heather's oldest son, Joel, graduated from East last year and was captain of the boys soccer team. She has two other sons who will attend East, and Jackson's children attend East High.
While the race got its start as a way to fund programs at the school, it has also become a way to encourage healthy living and positive life choices.
"I don't even think of the money aspect," Jackson said. "It's great motivation to keep these kids active. It's a good example for these kids to get out and exercise and to see the community do it. I just think it's great motivation for life."
And it is a great way to honor the life of a woman who found so much happiness while running.
"It was her release," Jackson said. "Since this race was in March, the month she died, and it is the school her children attended and will attend, we choose to celebrate her life and encourage awareness."
The race will begin at Hogle Zoo at 8:30 a.m. and end at the school's stadium. Registration information can be found at www.runningoftheleopards5k.com.