Cross-country runner inspires Hanover students

By Logan Wells ’15

Like the title character in “Forrest Gump,” who makes a cross-country trek to get over a lost love, this summer Kelcey Harrison will run more than 3,500 miles from New York City to San Francisco. Followed by the media and inspiring thousands, the journey will honor a childhood friend who died from lung cancer at age 22.

In 2009, the Harvard graduate’s childhood friend, Jill Costello, received the devastating diagnosis that she had Stage IV lung cancer. This was beyond surprising for a Pac 10 athlete of the year and a Division I All-American.

“It was a total shock,” said Harrison of her friend’s diagnosis during a recent interview. “She was 21 (years old) and healthy. She had never smoked.”

When Costello died just one year later, she left Harrison with one final task.

“Her wish was to have us defeat the stigma surrounding lung cancer. Lung cancer kills more people a year than every other cancer combined, and most people think that if you have it then you brought it upon yourself by smoking or something like that. Obviously that’s not true.”

Beginning the trip she dubbed, “The Great Lung Run,” July 30, Harrison might just be home in time for Thanksgiving dinner. The total 3,555 miles is the equivalent of running 136 marathons in about 123 days.

She stopped by Hanover College Aug. 24 to meet and inspire the cross-country team. They helped her finish the last of her 37 miles for the day, and Harrison stayed in the Kappa Alpha Theta house overnight.

“What she’s doing is amazing,” said senior Brock Harkness. “It was great to have her come through Hanover and it’s really cool that a lot of the team is following the rest of her journey on Twitter and (other social media).”

“She was very personable and excited about what was to come in her life,” said sophomore Paige Woods. “One thing that really stood out to me about Kelcey was how positive she was. After all that she has been through, she continues to look at the good in life and keep striving to be the best she can be. She truly is such a special person and will be an inspiration to so many people.”

After Costello’s death, Harrison and a group of others a nonprofit foundation called Jill’s Movement. They targeted a younger audience and attempted to educate them on the facts of lung cancer in order to destroy the stigma surrounding the disease. Any funds Harrison raises will go to the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation and Jill's Legacy for Lung Cancer research.

The media has taken note, with a Google search turning up more than one million hits. Former CBS News anchor Katie Couric posted a video about Harrison’s trip on her website and continues to chronicle her progress. When she’s not running, Harrison also promotes awareness for her cause by writing about her journey for the Huffington Post.

Harrison runs/walks an average of 30 miles a day, waking between 6-7 am and finishing by 2-3 p.m. She pushes a stroller full of food and other equipment, and consumes about 200 calories every two hours with easy-to-digest items like Clif bars, fruit, peanut butter sandwiches and coconut water. Dinner is 1,000-1,200 calories’ worth of carbs, protein and veggies.

There are bound to be a few bumps and bruises over a 3,555-mile journey, but so far Harrison remains upbeat.

“I expected (the run) to be hard, but that’s physical, it will pass,” she said, before adding the most rewarding part.

“The people. I keep using the same words, saying the same things, but they have been amazing.”

She admits that she is a little concerned about the daily grind breaking her down mentally but maintains, “If you decide you want to do something you can do it. It doesn’t matter how big or insignificant anyone thinks it is. Let’s make a change.”  

For more information about Harrison’s trip, visit thegreatlungrun.com.

Sophomore Logan Wells is in Hanover’s Business Scholars Program and runs both cross country and track.