Ron Marinucci - August Column
by Ron Marinucci, Aug. 4, 2015
Provided by Ron Marinucci
On July 3rd, Davina McNaney ran into Sodus Point, NY. For the 42-year old Michigan runner, that culminated RunMI2NY, a 15-day, 466.5 mile running journey from her home in Pinckney, MI. RunMI2NY was dedicated by McNaney to celebrate her defeat of breast cancer and to raise funds for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
“I was always athletic,” she recounted, “but enjoyed team sports.” Her first experience with running came when she turned 30. “I started running for the American Stroke Association Team in Training.” That led to her first marathon, in Buffalo, NY, which she ran to honor her grandmother who had died after a series of strokes. From then, she enthused, “My love of running has never subsided. I caught the running bug!”
She continued running and to celebrate turning 40, she ran 40 miles. With that run she also raised more than $4000 for a local food bank. Combining running and charities, McNaney began directing the Run for the Gold 5K and Kids’ Run in Pinckney, garnering several thousand dollars for community children’s programs. Having a masters degree in school psychology and fifteen years’ experience working in children’s mental health, the Run for the Gold was a natural fit for the running enthusiast.
Shortly after her 40-mile run, she had her first mammogram. Two months later, in December 2012, she was informed she had breast cancer. Since her family had a history with the disease, she was tested for carrying the breast cancer gene. The test was, fortunately, negative. After considering options, she underwent a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery three months later.
“The recovery was difficult,” she admitted. But less than four months later, she finished the Pinckney Memorial Day 5K. “It felt wonderful to be myself again,” she said. “It bothered me to have people think of me as a victim [of breast cancer]. I’ve always been strong, so this [running] was the best way for me to share. I want to celebrate being healthy and strong and to support research that helped me get better and inspire others to make it happen.”
McNaney and her husband, Steve, were both raised in Sodus Point. “My great grandmother lived there and my grandmother was born there,” she noted. “It’s a beautiful little resort town, a beach community that will always be my home, wherever I happen to live.”
The couple’s daughters, Sasha (7) and Nadia (4) “stayed with their grandparents [in Sodus Point] while I run RunMI2NY,” she said. In fact, the two girls came out to meet Mom on the 14th day near Rochester, NY. “I was very happy to be with my little girls. The time away from them was very difficult.”
Training was not easy. “I’m a 42-year old stay-at-home mom of two whose family always comes first,” she said. “I had to find time to train and not interfere with important things such as dinner time and brushing teeth.”
McNaney “had to find time to” average running thirty to eighty miles a week to prepare for RunMI2NY. During “the crazy weather” of winter and spring in Michigan, the treadmill came in handy. In one nine-day period, she ran three marathons and a 50K. “They helped me test gear, work on recovery, and try new foods during the runs.”
Once RunMI2NY was hatched, the 15-day June-to-July dates were selected carefully. Nadia and Sasha were out of school by then. And, McNaney added, “I chose to end on July 3 because Sodus Point would be very busy with July 4 festivities.” Plus, “Many people were be in town, which let me see lots of friends and family when I finished.” Indeed, more than 200 people greeted her at the finish.
They’ve returned to Sodus Point frequently, so choosing the route was easy. “We’ve driven it often to go home. I couldn’t take the shortcut through Canada. It felt right to go through the US cities and visit cool places along the way.”
Throughout the run, “Team Steve” provided support. “We worked very well together and got into a perfect routine to execute each day’s run without a hitch. My husband and I were well prepared for the run and everything that popped up as a challenge.” She added, “I’ll miss having so much time with my husband.”
Well, there was one hitch, albeit a tiny one. “I managed to run six miles off course,” she confessed. Near the close of one day’s run, Steve sent her on her way with instructions. He “told me where to make a slight turn on the course. But with 30 miles under my belt that day, I was not understanding. He said he would drive up six miles to the stake out point for the day and come back on his bike with supplies for me.” McNaney “ran and ran and couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t riding back for me.” She had run out of water and was without her cell phone. Steve, meanwhile, was frantically looking for her on the route he had told her, “the correct road,” she admitted. Finally, he asked a man mowing his lawn if he had seen a woman runner. The man asked, “Do you mean the girl in the purple pants? She went that way [the wrong way] a long time ago.” After twelve miles of pedaling, they hooked up, but not without some harrowing moments for each.
To cover the 466.5 miles in 15 days, she averaged more than 30 miles a day. She started to run each day at sunrise, “to get cooler temperatures,” trying to finish within eight hours. Steve was with their van and his bike to provide fluids, fuel, and other needs. She stopped to change socks and shoes a couple of times during the daily runs.
“The elements were the most challenging aspect of the run. Heat was not my friend, but rain was welcome.”
Recovery each night was, as might be expected, “paramount.” It included soaking in an Epsom salt bath for 20 minutes followed by a shower. She massaged muscle cream “wherever it hurt,” wore compression socks, put ice on swelling, did light stretches, and “got a painful massage from my sweet husband.” Oh, she also ate dinner and went to sleep.
Each morning started with ten minutes of stretching, “before my feet even hit the floor. I was good to go every morning. That shocked me, but I really was.”
She had a nice send-off from friends in Pinckney. One neighbor, Tim, “rode the first twelve miles with me on his fat tire bike while wearing pink bunny ears.” Although she had planned to run most of the time alone, “there were only six days I didn’t have runners join me.” Steve had contacted several running clubs along the route and there was a Facebook page to record the journey. “People were very excited to join me. The last two days were just insane.”
On the penultimate day besides seeing Sasha and Nadia, she was accompanied by “six ladies who call themselves the Bagel Bunch” and a group from the local Fleet Feet Running Store. Her nephew ran fourteen miles and would run with her again the next day. She found more than 50 people greeting her at a famous local restaurant, too.
“Day 15 was off the hook! People were popping out of the woodwork to run with me. They joined me at fourteen miles.” Jumping in there and running to the finish was her brother, Joe, “who is not a runner.” At interludes to the finish others came, high school friends, the local prep cross country team members, and even younger runners to “join for the final kick. By the time I crossed the finish line, there were forty people running with me! There were another 200 waiting to see me cross. It was so overwhelming I couldn’t even take it all in. I think I had stage fright to be honest.”
Afterward she admitted, “I have mixed feelings about being done. My body is happy to be resting.” Swollen and bruised ankles, feet, and knees are recovering. “And I get to sleep past 5 AM!” But, she added, “Oddly enough, I have an itch for the long run whenever I see a town, village, or city limit sign. I crave to run past them rather than just boringly drive by in a car. During the run, they represented huge accomplishments and milestones. I looked at them I amazement, ran past with excited butterflies and even tears. I have the feeling that longing won’t quickly subside.”
McNaney hopes RunMI2NY “inspires and encourages others. I can honestly say that getting a PR is great, but getting people excited about running is way more rewarding.” She also emphasized, “I am so thankful that my sponsors and followers supported my efforts, helping to raise over $20,000 for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.”
For more information about RunMI2NY or to make a donation to BCRF, visit McNaney’s Web site, www.RUNMI2NY.com.