Running a marathon is hard. What if you ran one everyday for four months? That’s what 24-year-old Kelcey Harrison is doing – 30 miles a day, across the entire country, from New York City to San Francisco.
The journey is called The Great Lung Run. By showing what her lungs can do, Harrison is spreading awareness for lung cancer and the myths that cause it to have just a 15 percent survival rate despite it being the number one cancer killer in America.
Her 3,500 mile trek is in honor of her friend Jill Costello, who lost her life to lung cancer at age 22. Costello was a star athlete and honors student in college who had never smoked.
As Harrison said in an interview, “Jill always said she would beat lung cancer – not her lung cancer, lung cancer in general. She’s kind of a legend in the lung cancer world and it’s her story that continues to galvanize lung cancer advocacy. I really believe that day by day, Jill is beating lung cancer. I mean, look at me, I’m running across the country…because of Jill!”
Although Costello never gave up hope, the statistics on lung cancer are disheartening. It kills more people than breast, prostate, colon, liver, melanoma, and kidney cancers combined, and yet for every 14 dollars spent on breast cancer research, lung cancer research only gets one dollar. The survival rate has not changed since the 1970s because of its stigma of being a self-induced illness of tobacco users. And yet it’s not. Jill Costello got cancer, along with 80 percent of newly diagnosed lung cancer patients who don’t smoke.
Which brings us back to Kelcey Harrison. How does a girl in her twenties decide to run across the country in memory of her friend? She became acquainted with the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation through Costello’s work with it during her battle with cancer, and through that organization, another one began. “Jill’s Legacy” seeks to beat lung cancer, just as Jill Costello wanted. They promote awareness, seek research money for lung cancer, organize races, and ask “What can your lungs do?” all in the name of their friend and inspiration.
To answer that last question, Harrison decided to lace up her sneakers and show where her lungs can take her. She aims to raise $250,000 for the cause, and is already over halfway there. She will finish her ultra-marathon early in December. To track her progress, go to thegreatlungrun.com.