Nurse on the Run: A Border-to-Border Message of Wellness

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By Megan Murdock Krischke, contributor 

July 24, 2013 - “Nurses are perfectly positioned to change the world, and we should be doing just that. We need to improve the health of the nation. Somebody had to step up, and I thought, ‘I can do that!’” began Helene Neville, RN. 

Neville’s determination and positive thinking have served her well in recent years: to fight a battle against cancer; to honor her family; and to champion a cause for nurses’ health, made more visible through some record-breaking endurance runs. 

First run: Coast-to-coast 

If you were to plan a driving trip from San Diego, Calif., to Jacksonville, Fla.,  with good weather and light traffic, you could make that drive in a mere 34 hours.  But during the summer of 2010, at the age of 50, Neville decided to leave the car at home.  She ran that route from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic--taking 93 days to cover 2,520 miles--to promote healthy living among nurses. 

She is believed to be the first the first person to complete the southern transcontinental route in the summer, as well as the first woman and first nurse to ever complete the run.

“The whole mission for me is that I believe if we are going to change the picture of health, we should start with the people providing the care,” Neville explained. 

Second run: Border-to-border 

After running coast to coast, Neville knew she also wanted to run border to border, to make the sign of the cross.  Her plans to do the second run were delayed, however, when she was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma in January 2012.

Helene Neville, RN, after her border-to-border run in June 2013.
Helene Neville, RN, poses with her brother's urn which she carried on her 1,520-mile run from Canada to Mexico.

“This was my fourth bout with cancer after having been cancer-free for 15 years or more. That was a bummer,” she reflected. “It affected my white blood cell count so I was tired and weak, but around Christmas I just said, ‘I’m doing that run!’”

In March 2013, Neville finished cancer treatment, but then needed emergency surgery to remove a gallstone. Even with that setback, she started her training regime.  Just a few weeks later, on May 1, 2013, she set out from Vancouver, B.C., for a 1,520-mile run.

During her 45-day run, Neville often used connections on Facebook to find the next place to stay, including staying with friends of friends. She also made several stops along the way to encourage others with her wellness message. She visited three schools, two running clubs, stopped at all three state capitals (in Washington, Oregon and California) and 10 medical centers. 

Neville averaged 34 miles a day, and on her longest day ran 73 miles. One week she ran 50 miles a day to stay on schedule; the nuns at a Pennsylvania school for which she was also raising funds (in honor of her mother) had purchased plane tickets, planning to meet her at the finish line on June 15. She didn't want to make them wait.  

“It is definitely a physical challenge, but a lot of it is mental,” Neville commented. “On this second run I was carrying the urn of my brother who passed away recently, and that gave the run a whole different feel for me." 

“Near the end of my run I spoke at two hospitals in Huntington Beach, Calif.  Two nurses who heard me speak decided that they would drive down to San Diego and run the last five miles with me. That was very nice, I couldn’t believe it.”

The journey to inspire nurse wellness continues 

On this year’s course, Neville was promoting her book about her first run, One on the Run, and a wellness conference, half-marathon and 5K for nurses that she is organizing.

National Nurses Half-Marathon around Red Rock Canyon will follow nurse wellness conference
The National Nurses Half-Marathon, organized by Helene Neville, RN, will follow the 13-mile loop around Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas this October.

“I wanted to create something where nurses can come and meet other nurses and get inspired and unified behind a message of health. That is how the National Nurses Half-Marathon and 5K and the National Nurses Health Institute were born,” she said. “People can come to Vegas, and for two days learn how to get themselves healthier and how to model that back to the community. Then the grand finale is a run on the 13-mile loop around Red Rock Canyon--it is breathtakingly beautiful.”

“My hope is that it becomes an annual gathering where people can escape the stress of work, hear stories from amazing people and run around the canyon,” she remarked. “Nurses will be inspired and empowered and motivated to go home and be that person who creates change. To be that person who goes home to their community and says, ‘We can do it!’”  

The National Nurses Health Institute will be held Friday and Saturday, October 11-12, in Las Vegas, Nev., followed by the half-marathon and 5K on Sunday, October 13. 

“Prior to my first run, people said that nurses wouldn’t take an interest in their health. But I still hear from a lot of nurses from my first run, and I’m doing it one mile, one person at a time,” stated Neville.

Neville is planning two more epic runs: one that will go across the country, east to west, and another that will run south to north. She also aspires to run for a senate seat at either the state or federal level in 2016. 

“Nurses can and should be role models for their patients. We can be catalysts of change because we live and work and breathe on the front lines of life. We are healers and world changers,” she encouraged.  

Learn more about Helene Neville's story and cause at www.oneontherun.com 

Related article: 

Nurse’s Cross-Country Marathon Encourages Colleagues to Embrace the Healthy Life 

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