Cancer survivor, Las Vegas nurse and grandmother Helene Neville already has four world records from her amazing runs around and across America. You would think that after running the nearly 10,000 perimeter miles, she’d conquered everything — but now she plans to finish with the ultimate challenge.
Not satisfied with her One on the Run achievements, Helene, 56, plans to meet the people and run the states that she missed while on the four north-to-south, west-to-east, south-to-north and east-to-west legs. “I want to finish the final 12 states because I am so close to doing something that no one has ever done,” she told me.
Her record-breaking runs started in 2010 with 2,520 miles in 93-degree summer days from Ocean Beach, California, to Atlantic Beach, Florida. The next 2,000 miles took 72 days from Florida to the Canadian border in Maine. It took her 45 days to run from Vancouver, British Columbia, south to the U.S. border at Tijuana, Mexico.
Her final leg of 3,400 miles across the top of the country to complete the 10,000-mile perimeter of the lower 48 states was from Maine to Washington State. In all, it was more than 330 non-consecutive days for a total of 9,715 miles. Not only is it a phenomenal feat of human endurance, but all the more remarkable because Helene herself is a medical miracle.
She underwent three brain surgeries in the 1990s to beat Hodgkin’s Lymphoma cancer and was treated with follow-up chemotherapy and radiation. In 2012, she was diagnosed with T-Cell Lymphoma and told to get her affairs in order because death was inevitable. Yet today she’s still alive and manages to run 25 miles a day.
“My run is not to realize my own dream but to inspire others to realize theirs,” she said. “My challenge is to motivate others into action.” There’s no question that Helene is a remarkable woman and a visionary with an indomitable spirit. She runs for causes as she uncovers the needs of others across the nation, inspiring them to have a full, rich life built on fitness and nutrition.
She wants to restore the health of America: “It’s up to you and me to take positive action to ensure that the future is everything it can possibly be. I can inspire others to rethink their own impossible one person and one mile at a time.” Is she crazy? Listen to her answer on YouTube:
She topped off her four sides of America last year with a 135-mile, nonstop, back-and-forth run along the Strip between the south and north ends at the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign and Downtown on Fremont Street. I was with her on one section near The Stratosphere. Now Helene, who set the world record as the first grandmother, nurse and cancer survivor to run the perimeter of the contiguous United States, has a new goal.
She’s just 40 days away from starting her final run May 1: Nurses Day. This time she plans a 4,000-mile jaunt in just under 5 months with a route through Wyoming to West Virginia and back through Utah before running down the Strip to make a turn on Sahara and finish in the parking lot of Westgate, where she will begin.
Westgate headliner “Sexxy” stars have promised to host the kickoff and welcome home Zumba parties and run the first and last mile with Helene:
How are you preparing for the final run?
I train alongside the Evo athletes (EvoUltraFit.com) who are there perfecting their talents for the next World Series, Olympic Games, Stanley Cup, Super Bowl, PGA, ballet and a host of other sports and professional activities.
Jay Schroeder, CEO and founder of Evo, develops, perfects and implements highly sophisticated and unique training protocols allowing humans to reach new levels of performance standards once only dreamed of while staying injury resistant and extending athletic careers far past what has been the norm.
I have trained here since 2010. The training is extremely hard. I am also sticking to my diet of high proteins and fats and only 40 grams of daily carbs.
How long to go? Do you have the route planned?
Today is 40 days away to my May 1 start. Yes, I have the route planned. Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Utah and Nevada. I plan to run down the Strip, make a turn on Sahara and finish in the parking lot of the Westgate with my friends from “Sexxy” beside me. I plan to finish on Saturday, Sept. 23, almost 4,000 miles in just under 5 months.
What’s your target — what’s your goal?
To meet as many people across our great land and finish this run.
What do you need before you set out?
A good Garmin watch to track me, food and shelter, support if possible out on the highways.
There’s a mission in your mind for all of this?
A better America. I love running and unveiling how much right there is in our world, more than I ever imagined. I try to inspire others to acknowledge that we are all one. We are all a significant piece of the whole. What I find when I run is a beautiful display of humanity. Some things we can change, but, for the most part, it’s out of our control. We can, however, change how we love each other.
What’s going through your mind as the real loneliness of the long-distance runner sets in?
I want to leave a legacy for my sons and grandchildren. In the remote sections, I will be dropping the support vehicle off in 100-mile increments and taking a pack with everything I need to survive on my back until I reach the next stop of my 1998 Isuzu Trooper, which is still running believe, it or not!
Running that distance is formidable enough, but it also has to be frightening?
I am scared because of my continued battle with cancer, and I was almost 50 when I started the run in 2010. I will be turning 57 during this run in Kansas. I know there are risks. There will be tough parts, but I am visualizing and planning. I am excited to know that I will have run through every state in the continental United States and met people up close and personal.
I have run the perimeter without big-name sponsors, celebrity endorsements, money and a concrete plan. Much like my other runs, I am confident because what I do have is experience of running long segments day after day for months at a time. I have been through targeted training, and I have spirit, drive, willpower and commitment.
When I started this run, I never thought of running through all 48 states. I did one segment and said let me do another one, then another. Something kept me going. Now I want to finish the final 12 states because I am so close to doing something that no one has ever done.
What is your hope?
That people learn that one person can make a difference. It only takes one person to think differently for things to change. I hope that my run inspires health, unity and love.
Check out our interview with Helene in April 2014, and follow Helene’s history-making run via Twitter @OneOnTheRun and at Facebook.com/OneOnTheRun. Also please donate for her expenses and a new pair of running shoes that she has to buy every 500 miles!