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May 5, 2013

Alison "Ace" Bradley

Running: One doesn't run coast to coast without a reason

By JOHN ROLFE

For most runners, including those who race regularly, 50 miles represents a pretty decent training week. This consideration is an attempt to put in perspective the fundraising adventure that Alison "Ace" Bradley will embark on beginning Monday.

She will leave New York City Hall on foot about 6 a.m., with a goal of arriving at Los Angeles City Hall in the afternoon or the evening on or about July 1. The total distance is 2,800 miles. So, to hit her target, she needs to average just about 50 miles a day.

Bradley calls her quest "Running for a reason," as you can see on her Web site -- http://run2fightcancer.webstarts.com. You can donate through the site. The money she raises will be divided 50-50 between the American Cancer Society and the Cancer Society of New Zealand. She is running for at least a couple of reasons: She has many times seen the toll that cancer takes -- from the death of a primary school friend's 6-year old brother to the chemo treatments undergone last fall by a University of Southern Maine lacrosse teammate ("She's doing great").

And as she explains in a personal note on the site: " There are going to be many physical and mental obstacles ... I would be lying if I said that this was going to be easy, I would be lying if I said beating cancer would be easy, but just because it isn't easy doesn't mean it's impossible.

"What will it take to get me through the obstacles? Knowing that every step I take brings me closer to the finish, knowing that every day I run gives someone inspiration in their own life, basically because I don't know how to quit."

Born in Tavistock, Devon, in southwest England, Bradley, 26, moved to New Zealand at age 5. She acquired the "Ace" nickname at age 3 from a chum who couldn't manage the full Alison. She had been planning to come to the U.S. anyway when, six years ago in New Zealand, she met USM graduate Jen (Young) Babich, whose description of Maine's appeal moved Bradley to move here. Back in Maine now, Babich "has been a huge help in organizing the run and support for it," Bradley says.

And truly, the run demands a high level of organization. Bradley will run crew-less for the first couple of weeks, during which she has stops and meals planned and accommodations booked. She'll have a car and drivers when she hits Ohio and Indiana, then go solo for another week, then have two weeks' support through the Rockies, Colorado and Arizona.

How does one train to run 2,800 miles? It's about the way you live. Bradley plays soccer and lacrosse and was an above-average if not standout distance runner at USM. At 5 feet 5 inches and 140 pounds, she has some needed muscle.

Her long-distance background includes a pair of marathons: Maine 2010, where she ran a Boston-qualifying 3:32:59, and a 4:05:06 on a hot Patriots Day at Boston 2012. Then, in a previous fundraiser for cancer research, Bradley ran the equivalent of a marathon a day for six straight days, from Portland to Bar Harbor, last August. She took the coastal route up U.S. Route 1 and then "I turned right at Ellsworth."

This spring she did some pretty intense training in New Zealand, which peaked in a six-week stretch when her running went up to 30 miles every day, with a four-hour bike session added. Looking ahead, she's got a daily routine planned: "Get up about 6 a.m. and do 10-15 miles, then have breakfast, stretch and walk around, and after 45 minutes to an hour, run another 10-15 in the morning and then stop for lunch. Get out of the sun, have some more food, after an hour or so, do 10 miles and just keep moving forward. After a break, finish off with 10-15 miles to wherever I'm staying that night.

"One key is to make sure I get at least eight hours of sleep every night. Apart from that, I'll just be running (10-12 minute miles) and eating the whole time."

Eating amounts to a minimum of 6,000 calories a day, including jelly beans (not the fancy made-for-runners kind, just workaday Hannaford beans, favorite color blue). She's also got a "huge" playlist of music and a collection of language-learning lessons, and help from sponsors including Brooks (shoes), Maine Running Co. and Juice Plus+ recovery fuel.

If all goes for the best, Bradley will, as she hopes, break South African Mavis Hutchison's Guinness Book female record for this particular across-the-U.S. run. In 1978, "Galloping Granny" Hutchison, then 53, took 69 days, 2 hours and 40 minutes. Bradley's planned 57-day trip gives her a little wiggle room.

Although it's allowable to begin at either point, Bradley thinks a New York start better for her. "The Rockies will be the hardest part. ... And then I'll be running to the beach."

AS OF MIDWEEK, the Sea Dogs Mother's Day 5K in Portland next Sunday was almost at 2,600 entrants (plus 400 in the kids run) -- well on the way to hitting the cap of 3,000, which it did last year the day before the race, RD Howard Spear informs.

In the wake of the Boston barbarity, there will be new security measures: "Anyone carrying a bag and/or backpack will be searched before entering the stadium," and because of the post-start crowd rush into Hadlock, spectators are asked to leave backpacks in their cars.

No starting cannon will be fired at the Mother's Day or Father's Day 5K or at the Maine Marathon. "I would imagine the other Maine Track Club races will follow," Spear commented.

John Rolfe of Portland is a road runner. He can be reached at 791-6429 or at:

jrolfe@pressherald.com





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