McKenzie Stevens, a student at Spalding University, knew she had a passion for helping others and that she loved to run. So when the opportunity to run across the country to raise awareness and funds for cancer research came up, she had to take it. Now, the Louisville, Ky., native is training every week to run more than 4,000 miles from San Francisco to New York on June 18.
We asked her a few questions about what’s motivating her and how she’s preparing. Ask your own questions in the comments below!
You’re running across the country! That’s amazing! What sparked your interest in this journey?
One night I was watching the local news and heard about a young lady from my hometown who was running across the country. I had a similar reaction when I heard the story and thought, “SHE’S RUNNING ACROSS THE COUNTRY, NO WAY!” Soon after I started following her journey, found out about the mission of the organization, and was hooked on the idea for myself soon after.
One of the coolest aspects of this journey I will going on this summer is that every day when we run we will be dedicating the run to a person who is currently in treatment, is a survivor or has passed away from cancer. I have run across many people in my life who have dealt with or who are still dealing with cancer. One of my strongest connections to the cancer community is through my best friend. Her brother Steven fought a battle with Sarcoma. While the cancer did take his life, it did not take his spirit. I hope that I can radiate his spirit, joy and wisdom everyday as I complete this 4,500 mile journey.
When did you start running?
I started running in high school but was never a fast runner. Instead of focusing on time, I tried to focus on going longer distances. I signed up to do my first half marathon when I was a sophomore in college. After that I was hooked!
What inspired you to pick up running?
I am very motivated by others. I remember seeing my family and friends setting goals, both personal and professional, and achieving them. I was inspired and decided that completing long distance races was going to be my goal, and as I achieved one, I constantly set new goals. First it started with just completing a half, next I completed two halves, and then I set out to complete different half marathons in three different cities. Currently my goal is to complete the 4,500 mile journey across the country. It changes a little every year, but my ultimate goal would be to do a half marathon in every state!
What’s your mantra to get out the door?
“Don’t count the days; make the days count.” – Muhammad Ali
Not only was Muhammad Ali an incredible athlete, but he also was one of the greatest humanitarians the world has ever seen. He had a way with words and many of his quotes inspire me every day to not only do the best I can personally but also do the best I can for others. I try to live out this mantra everyday. Some days are better than others, but I can always be confident in saying I gave it my all.
What does “Your world to run” mean to you?
To me that is a powerful statement that can take on several meanings. Running is a special experience that I feel fortunate to be able to participate in. Not only is it physically challenging, but it is also mentally challenging. That is why every day when you choose to run, you are deciding how you want your world to run. By taking those steps and strides, I am promoting change for myself and my future.
How are you preparing to run across the country?
I have been preparing for this run since February. I have followed the training schedule given to us by the 4K for cancer. It consist of four days of running and two days of cross training each week. I have also really enjoyed participating in races and running with friends while training in order to motivate myself to keep going. Considering we will be running up to 16 miles a day in a 2-mile relay format, the training has been very intense. The program directors have done a wonderful job with getting our body and minds into shape for one of the toughest summers of our lives.
Tell us about 4K for Cancer and how people can people get involved in your run and this cause?
The 4K for Cancer is a program put on by The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. The mission of this charity is to change lives by creating a community of support for young adults, and their loved ones who have been impacted by cancer. You can find out more about the 4K for Cancer and the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults by visiting http://4kforcancer.org/.