She wanted to give people hope.
Davina McNaney, a Medway resident for three years, wanted to show people that a diagnosis of breast cancer doesn’t always mean the end.
“It doesn’t have to be something that taints your life. You can look at your situation and figure out what control you have to make this a positive outcome. My running has made people hope. My running has made me having cancer worthwhile; I’m translating it into making a positive ripple,” says McNaney.
It took her 12 days, but Davina ran 390 miles, through four states, from the Boston Harbor Hotel, in Boston, to Sodus Point, New York, her hometown, where she arrived on Tuesday, July 3rd. Along the way, she raised $24,732 for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
This might sound like an amazing feat, but what’s even more amazing is that Davina, had done it before. In 2015, the mother of two decided to run from Michigan to Sodus Point, her first fundraiser for BCRF. That run, “RunMI2NY,” spanned 15 days, across 4 states for 470 solo miles to raise $23,000. A year later, she was raising more money, $5,000 for the cause in several ultra-races.
“I’m passionate about it,” says Davina, who found out she had breast cancer at just 40 years old, when she was living in Ann Arbor, MI.
“I went for my very first mammogram, and that’s when they found it; a month later I had a double mastectomy and reconstruction. I did that, because I had the option to have a lumpectomy and 36 radiation treatments, and my youngest was two and my oldest was five. Just having to go to all the appointments and second opinions when I was diagnosed – I couldn’t and didn’t want to go,” says Davina, who also dreaded the side effects of chemotherapy. She felt angry about her situation, but appreciated “that they gave me options.”
She wanted to put the experience behind her and forget about it, but she couldn’t.
“I literally woke up one morning, and said ‘Steve, I want to run home, from Michigan to New York,’” says the runner. “He was like, absolutely not.”
While her husband took some convincing, Davina was determined, and he turned into her biggest supporter.
“I wanted it to be big, to mean something, to get people’s attention. I was thankful they found my breast cancer early, thankful for my outcome. They got it out, and they got it all out. It wasn’t in the lymph nodes … People aren’t dying from breast cancer so much (as before), because they’ve done so much research, and that’s what I wanted the money to go toward.”
The Breast Cancer Research Foundation (https://www.bcrf.org) funds over 200 researchers around the world.
“They do an amazing job, with a bunch of them in Boston and just all over the world. Ninety-one cents of every dollar donated goes to funding research,” says McNaney, who also has a master’s degree and works in the disability resource office of Mass Bay Community College.
Davina had done ultra-marathons before, and she did some research on long-distance runs.
“Basically, once I have my mind made up, it’s done. I don’t stop until I reach my goal,” she says. “I looked at everything I would need to do to be successful and had a plan laid out,” says McNaney. Her motivation was complemented by her husband’s ability to assess risks.
“He’s an insurance VP, a risk assessor. He’s very safe and calculated in the way he does things. I’m calculated, but I like to take calculated risks, and I won’t stop until I reach my goal. We’re a good team in that sense. We balance each other out.”
No doubt Davina enjoys running. Although she’s run marathons, that distance, she says, is not her favorite. She prefers and has done several longer races, including 100-mile, 50-mile, and 50K races. She’s part of a Medway running group, The Medway Momma Striders.
“For a 50K, it’s 32 miles. Those are usually on trails, easier on the joints, not on pavement, and going through the woods is a much more scenic and relaxed feeling, like it being an experience, a journey, rather than just a race,” says the runner. When asked what she enjoys about it, the athlete answers, “The solitude. The control. I have one job, I need to move forward and get to the finish line. It’s all under my control. I’m aware of my body, aware of my surroundings. It’s a simple thing,” she says.
For this last trek, McNaney credits local gym Training for Warriors, also one of her sponsors. “They whipped me into even better shape,” she says. “They had us pushing sleds, using body weights, TRX stuff. I couldn’t believe how much stronger I was getting. It really helped with running and not getting injured. I feel it was a huge attribute this time.”
Preparing to run hundreds of miles isn’t easy.
“I worked out more than I worked,” says Davina, would go to the gym five times a week, incorporating five or six runs that included long runs (about 20 miles). “Some of it included doing up to eight miles dragging a tire,” she says. Later, she says, she had a nightly routine of stretching, Epsom salt-soaking, drinking water, a muscle rub and more stretching.
Starting on June 22nd, Davina began her run home from Boston, even running in 90-degree-heat for four days straight. “I didn’t collapse,” she says, “I made it every day.” Her husband and girls encouraged her. “They were there with me four full days through the Green Mountains. I cried every single day – you’re emotionally drained. You’re physically drained.” The heat, the mountains and the sleep deprivation were the hardest parts, she explains.
Although her husband and girls are very proud of what she’s accomplished, Davina has promised no ultra runs this year – but she won’t stop running. “If I get the itch to do something else, I can always do a 10K, or 50K, or a half marathon.”
If you’d like to learn more about Davina McNaney and her cause, or if you would like to donate to BCRF, visit www.bostrun2ny.com.