In this series, we’re following the inspiring story of Kelcey Harrison, a 24-year-old Harvard grad who is running from New York to San Francisco in honor of her late friend, Jill Costello, a non-smoker who died of lung cancer at 22. Kelcey plans to run 30 miles a day for four months straight and we’ll be covering Kelcey’s most colorful moments along the way! To support, visit www.thegreatlungrun.com | @greatlungrun | Donate
Kelcey Harrison says she’s “passionate,” not crazy. Upon further thought, “Well, maybe I’m a little crazy.”
The 24-year-old California native is running from New York’s Times Square to downtown San Francisco. That’s right, 3,500 miles in total. Map that run! No bikes. No cars. No planes. Just a recent Harvard graduate on her own two feet, trotting 30 miles a day for four months straight. Not only is that over a marathon a day, that’s a lot of thinking time.
“Believe me, that much alone time with my own thoughts could be the most dangerous part of the journey,” Harrison laughs. “But really, I’m downloading lots of audio books and music. Maybe even a couple movies. And if anyone out there needs to talk on the phone I’m available all day, every day, for the next 3,500 miles.”
Preparations don’t end there. Harrison expects to go through at least ten pairs of running shoes along the way. She’s sending warm clothing ahead to stops along the way, consulting with nutritionists and packing everything from ice packs to pajamas for the next four months into a jogging stroller. Sounds like a lot of hard work, a ton of wear on the body and many tedious preparations. Not to mention quitting a great job. So why’s she doing it?
“My best friend, a young, athletic, non-smoker died of lung cancer,” Kelcey explains. “It’s now my mission to carry on her battle and make an impact.”
Jill Costello, at age 22, died of lung cancer after a hard fought 13-month battle. In the last year of her life, Costello was named Pac-10 Women’s Athlete of the Year, graduated from Cal Berkeley with a 4.0 GPA and led the Cal Women’s Crew team to a National Championship.
An otherwise healthy, non-smoking young woman dies of lung cancer. Just a fluke, right? Wrong. And that’s why Harrison is running.
20% of women diagnosed with lung cancer have never touched a cigarette.
“Lung cancer has an overshadowing stigma that only smokers can get it. In reality, over 20% of women who are diagnosed with lung cancer have never touched a cigarette. Why don’t people know this? Because of that stigma, the survival rate has not changed in 40 years. For people like Jill, that stigma makes a lung cancer diagnosis a death sentence.”
Unbeknownst to many, lung cancer is the number one cancer killer. It kills more people than breast, prostate, colon, liver, melanoma and kidney cancers combined. While breast cancer has a 94% survival rate, lung cancer has a staggering 15.5% survival rate.
With the odds clearly not on her side, Costello made a never-before-seen impact on lung cancer awareness. Costello’s young face graced billboards and buses and jolted the American public with a message – young, non-smoking women can get lung cancer.
She’s kind of a legend in the lung cancer world.
“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!”
Jill’s Legacy, a lung cancer advocacy group named in honor of Jill Costello has started a campaign, “What Can Your Lungs Do?” KC Oakley of the US Ski Team says she uses her lungs to ski. Chicago Cubs outfielder, Brett Jackson uses his lungs to hit homeruns. Musical group, Radical Something use their lungs to sing. Lung cancer survivor, Taylor Bell uses her lungs to live. And Kelcey, she uses her lungs to run from New York to San Francisco.