CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — An Urbana woman is about to do her third half-marathon. But this year, she says it will be a tribute and a symbol of strength to a woman she’s always admired.

People always have a reason to start running or run their first big race. This is Theresa Heater’s third, but she says this year has given her the most reason of all. Heater is a dedicated half-marathoner.

“My goal, at some point in the future, is to urn the entire thing.”

Through training, she’s built up endurance. This year, there’s another force giving her strength.

“It seems different, you know, like I can run longer than I used to because I do the run/walk method. It’s like I can extend those runs and walk less.”

She says that force is coming from above.

“I’ve got a guardian angel, my grandmother, looking down on me.”

Her grandmother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given six weeks to live. She held on for 18-months and only last month, lost the fight. Now, Heater continues to hold her head steady.

“She’s a big reason why I’m running right now, this year, along with my mother. She’s just been diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer as well.”

The love for her family and her desire to match their strength is what moves her.

“She’s a fighter, you know, so I have two strong women in my family. One lost her battle and one is just beginning her battle with cancer and, if they can battle the cancer and fight it, I can get out there and run.”

And run she will. Heater says this year is for them.

“Whether she can be in the stands or not, she’s going to be cheering me on.”

As for her mom, she has breast cancer, but her prognosis is good. Heater says it’s because they caught it early. She wanted to add early detection for this type of cancer is key and she’s grateful they didn’t catch it in an advanced stage.

Heater is doing what’s called the I-Challenge: She’ll be doing the 5K Friday night, then the half-marathon Saturday.