Alison "Ace" Bradley, former New Zealand mail carrier, current Maine lacrosse coach, hopes she will soon be the world record holder for fastest woman to cross the United States on foot.
On July 13, Bradley completed her 2,800 mile run from New York City to Los Angeles in 68 days, one day less than the previous record. During this run, she passed through McPherson and was back this week to visit after the completion of her journey.
Bradley ran an average of 41 miles, or 1.5 marathons, each day. Her name will be entered as the world record holder once Guinness World Records processes her application.
Bradley said she started running to stay in shape for the soccer season in New Zealand, where she grew up. When she started attending the University of Southern Maine, her roommate convinced her to join track.
Bradley said she ran in the mile, 3K and 5K events because she liked long-distance runs better than short races. In 2010, she ran her first marathon in Maine.
"I don't enjoy the short ones," Bradley said. "I prefer to go out for an easy 8 to 10-mile run."
After running 174 miles from Portland, Maine to Bar Harbor, Maine, during the course of six days, one of Bradley's friends in Los Angeles suggested trying something bigger.
"She was like, well, you ran to Bar Harbor, might as well run to LA next," Bradley said. "I think that planted the seed. It's one of those things, like, it would be cool to do."
Bradley thought about it off and on until, one day, she decided to go for it.
"I was at work, and I figured out the logistics, and I was like, well, I'm just going to do it, just to see if I could," Bradley said.
Running for a reason
Bradley said while she did think about breaking the world record of 69 days, it wasn't her primary motivation.
"I wanted to do it for the experience and the journey," Bradley said. "If I happened to break the record, that would just be a bonus."
Another motivator for Bradley was raising money for cancer research. Bradley set up a website and Facebook group, letting people know she was trying to raise money for the New Zealand and American cancer societies.
Bradley updated the Facebook page during her run so people could see her progress. People began leaving comments on her Facebook page and sending her messages.
"I tried to keep it fun," Bradley said. "What I was doing was hard, but I believe in mind over matter."
Bradley said these messages often gave her the boost she needed to keep going.
"If I was going through a tough day, people would message me, saying it's fine, you're doing great," Bradley said. "Knowing that every day, people were going on my Facebook and looking at my journey kind of forced me to stay positive and forced me to keep going and keep running."
Page 2 of 2 - Bradley also would mention her cancer research fundraising to people when she stopped for the day.
"People would ask why I was doing it, and first thing would be raising money for cancer," Bradley said.
Bradley said she chose to raise money for cancer research because it affects everyone in some way.
"Everyone kind of knows someone, indirectly or directly," Bradley said. "I feel like it's one thing a lot of people can relate to."
While she hasn't been personally affected by cancer, Bradley said she knows people who have, including the parents of two of her friends and one of the captains of her lacrosse team.
"She had to sit out this season for chemo," Bradley said. "Seeing her go through it, and how she stayed upbeat the whole time and helped out at practices as much as she could and seeing how much the team got behind her and supported her, that kind of inspired me even more to continue this run."
Bradley said this experience was a huge motivation for her during the run.
"Knowing that she had been fighting for her life all last season and all I was doing was running made me think, 'OK, you can keep going'," she said.
As of Wednesday, she had raised $5,400, which she plans to split equally between the two societies.
Bradley said one of the biggest challenges was overcoming weather.
"I ran into a few storms — rain storms, thunderstorms, lightning storms, gale force winds kind of thing," she said.
Bradley planned to run 50 miles a day. A few times, she was unable to reach her 50-mile goal because of weather.
"When I was in Texas a few times, the wind got so bad that I didn't stop early, but I didn't run as far because I was basically running into the wind the whole time," Bradley said.
Bradley stopped in McPherson for one night during her run.
"I like the people here," Bradley said. "Everyone's so nice and welcoming."
In the end, Bradley said her main goal was to inspire others.
"One of my mottos throughout the whole run was kia kaha, which in Maori means 'stay strong,'" Bradley said. "I wanted people to no matter what you're battling or what you're going through each day, to not quit and stay strong."
Bradley said it's a motto she took to heart during her journey.
"No matter what I was going through, the next day was going to get better," Bradley said. "If you just keep fighting and don't give up, you will get through it."
More information on Bradley's run and her cancer research fundraiser can be found on the Facebook group Running 2 Fight Cancer or on her website at www.run2fightcancer.webstarts.com.