FORT PIERCE, FLA. — Colleagues are often taken aback when they learn that veterinarian Juli Goldstein is a title-holding beauty queen. Imagine their surprise when they find out the Auburn University veterinary graduate ran a 149-mile Jungle Marathon in Brazil to raise money for pets with cancer.
Goldstein recently trekked through the Amazon in what is described as a grueling seven-day event pitting 42 racers from around the world against one another in one of the most unforgiving environments imaginable. The runners faced triple-digit temperatures, 100 percent humidity, insects, wild animals, uneven terrain and 20-hour days.
Goldstein trained during the tropic-like summer in Florida, where she lives and works as a marine mammal veterinarian for the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in St. Lucie County.
"It was probably one of the toughest things I've ever done, next to vet school," says Goldstein, an avid marathoner. "They call it a race, but it's really an adventure."
And she did it to raise awareness for the Stryder Cancer Foundation, a nonprofit she founded after her Golden Retriever, Stryder, died of cancer in 2010.
"It was very hard to be a vet and not be able to fix my own dog," Goldstein says. "For the first time in my career, I was on the other side of the table. I realized that there was a need out there. Our mission is to provide people with emotional and financial support when their animal is diagnosed with cancer."
The tool she uses to get the word out is running.
"You don't see a lot of beauty queens running in the Amazon—no makeup, smelly," she says.
Although Goldstein did not finish the race, only 10 competitors did, she was the only woman to travel 200 kilometers (124 miles). Her journey was filmed by ABC and aired on Nightline Feb. 14.
"The Jungle Marathon was a huge opportunity for me," Goldstein adds. "I hope that someone with a huge heart will see it on national TV with a huge heart and a huge wallet and help."
More information on the Stryder Cancer Foundation can be found at strydercancerfoundation.org.