By Marianne Magno
Despite common misconceptions, lung cancer isn’t just a disease for smokers. One in five American women who contract lung cancer this year will be non-smokers. To raise awareness and funds for this disease, and to honor a friend who lost her battle to lung cancer at only 22, Kelcey Harrison, a 24-year-old Harvard grad, is running across America. We caught up to the runner in the middle of her journey (she is expected to reach San Francisco on December 1st!) to find out more about her quest.
What made you decide to run across the country to raise funding for lung cancer?
I had graduated from college and moved to New York City after my childhood friend, Jill Costello, passed away from lung cancer. She was diagnosed in June 2009 and passed away almost exactly one year later in June 2010 at just 22 years old. She had never smoked and was the picture of health until her diagnosis. She was a college athlete – a coxswain at Cal Berkeley and continued to row with the team even after her diagnosis and as she endured numerous rounds of chemo, radiation, and doctors visits. She also continued to attend classes and graduated from Cal in May 2010. In addition to all of this Jill began working with the San Francisco based Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation to raise funds and awareness for lung cancer. The main goal was to begin to erase the stigma that faces lung cancer patients. This stigma has drastically stymied fundraising and research. After Jill passed away a group of us formed Jill’s Legacy to carry out her last wish to “beat lung cancer BIG time.” We aim to motivate the young generation to mobilize and really raise their voices for lung cancer. As a member of the board, but living in New York City, I felt that I was unable to contribute as much to our cause as I would have liked. I was trying to come up with something that I could do for Jill and for our board when I began developing the idea to run across the country in honor of Jill and in order to raise money and awareness for lung cancer.
How did you prepare for this journey?
The prep work for this journey was mostly in the planning–figuring out the exact route and where I would sleep, creating a website, and working with Jill’s Legacy to determine how to publicize the run. I played soccer throughout my childhood and on the Women’s Varsity team at Harvard University as well as have run several marathons and a number of half marathons, so I have always been an athlete. In terms of training for this run I simply began running longer distances and once I was able to do 30 miles in one day I knew that I would be able to do that distance for consecutive days. I settled on a goal of covering 30 miles a day from New York City to San Francisco and determined that it would take about 4 months.
What do you eat to fuel up?
In the morning I eat oatmeal, nonfat Greek yogurt, fruit, water, and coffee. While I am out running I rely on a few energy bars and water. Post run I fuel up with healthy things and try to have some variety. Some things I like are bean and tomato salad, quinoa, cottage cheese, chicken and vegetables, roasted salted nuts, fruit, vegetables with hummus. Any of these are snacks I like to fuel up on. For dinner I try to get a good balance of protein, carbs, and vegetables. I try to eat red meat a couple times a week and otherwise load up on fish and chicken whenever possible. I usually get a meat or fish dish with a vegetable side or a big salad topped with meat or fish.
Where are you staying along your route?
For this first 6 weeks of my journey I was on my own as I ran through New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and Illinois. I was able to mostly stay with hosts for that portion of the journey – family friends and friends of friends. Once I made it to Missouri, my coordinator and high school friend, Sydney Ford, joined me with a vehicle that was donated to us. Since her arrival, she drops me off every morning and picks me up in the afternoon once I have completed my 30 miles. Through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona we have mostly been staying in hotels as we have been going through some very small towns where we lacked connections to hosts.
How can others help?
Visit thegreatlungrun.com and donate at http://www.crowdrise.com/thegreatlungrun/fundraiser/jillslegacy/donate. Learn about lung cancer and spread the word so that we can beat this horrible disease. No one deserves to die from a disease because it is underfunded and under researched. Let’s work together to make a change!