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Breast Cancer Survivor Davina McNaney to Embark on 470-Mile Run for Research

By BCRF | May 19, 2015

The epic run from Michigan to New York represents the immense gratitude for the scientific developments that led to her recovery

Help Davina cross the finish line. Support her 470-mile race today with a small or large donation. Every dollar counts! Learn more here.


One year ago Davina McNaney made an impressive decision: she was going to run 470 miles from her house in Pinckney, Michigan to her childhood hometown of Sodus Point, New York. It was something ambitious, something that wouldn’t go unnoticed – and it had to be done.

“Last May I woke up and said, ‘I want to run home. I want to run all the way to New York for breast cancer research,’” McNaney told BCRF. “Why? Because research is a big deal.”

Nearly three years ago, McNaney was a 40-year-old mother of two whom, on a routine doctor’s visit, received her first mammogram. The test took place days after she completed a 40-mile run to benefit a local food bank. Soon after, she received the devastating news that she had breast cancer. Once the cancerous lump was found, she underwent a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.

“I have never been one to be viewed as a victim,” McNaney said. “I pride myself on being strong, independent and in control – and that was a moment I lost all control. That wasn’t a moment I was going to share with people.”

Now, McNaney, 42, has decided to go public with her story in a style all her own. She will embark on a 470-mile, 14-day run beginning June 19 across the Midwest. To date, she has raised more than $5,500 for BCRF.

“The distance I am running shows how thankful I am for breast cancer research. It’s a direct equation,” McNaney said.  “Research helped me have a positive outcome – my cancer was caught early.”

Early detection allowed her to make decisions regarding her treatment options. And as a mother to two young daughters, she was tested for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations to see whether her children were at risk of developing the disease in the future.

“The most nerve-wracking part was not finding out if I had breast cancer but if I carried the gene mutation,” McNaney said. “When I found out I was not a carrier, I was relieved they were not going to be impacted as significantly as they could have been.”

But McNaney knows not all women diagnosed with breast cancer share her prognosis or treatment options – and she’s grateful for the research that was available to her at the time of her diagnosis. 

“If by supporting research I can help people avoid those outcomes, then that’s why I’m doing this. This is how I want to help,” McNaney said. She adds, “Maybe one day it will get to the point where people won’t have to call themselves survivors because no one is dying anymore.”

Her 470-mile route will cross four states and six major cities. She is not taking any shortcuts or breaks and intends on completing an average of 33 miles per day for 14 consecutive days. Her husband, Steve, will be following her in a support van, but she will otherwise be running solo. A walkie-talkie will replace a cell phone – her fingers get too numb after running for multiple hours on end, she told BCRF. At the end of each day she will place a marker at her last spot, go to a nearby hotel to sleep and return to the same location to begin running the following morning.

Her run will end at the baseball field where she played Little League growing up. Some of her high school classmates, who will be in town for their 25-year reunion, will run the last leg with her. Her daughters, 7-year-old Sasha and 4-year-old Nadja, will greet her as well.

“When I’m running I dream about the finish line, and they’re there,” McNaney said. “That’s my motivation.”

McNaney has been training for the past year to accomplish this feat, waking up at 5:30 a.m. for her daily runs, logging 30 to 80 miles each week. When she’s not in the gym, she is competing in marathons – sometimes back-to-back. On April 25 she ran a marathon followed by a 50 km run the following day. On May 31, less than a month before her 470-mile endeavor, she will run in a half-marathon.

“I work out everyday. Why take a day off? I’m not going to do that on the road,” McNaney said. Her drive has inspired others to take action. Some have participated in their first 5K while others have decided to donate.

“I want people to challenge themselves when they think something they want to do is out of the box,” McNaney said referring to the message she wants to spread with her run.  “Don’t be scared to do something beyond you and help other people.”

Help Davina cross the finish line. Support her 470-mile race today with a small or large donation. Every dollar counts! Learn more here. And don’t forget to follow our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts for updates on her training and run.