She made it!
With only a couple hours of sleep and her muscles aching, Eva Casale summoned up the strength to sprint through the finish line Sunday as she completed her three-day, 150-mile run from Manhattan to Montauk. Click on the map icons above to see photos from Casale’s journey
“This is the hardest thing I ever did,” Casale said, “but I told myself never to give up because the children would never want me to give up on them.”
The 50-year-old ultramarathoner from Syosset was running on behalf of 150 children, mostly from Long Island, who have battled cancer — including some who lost their lives. She has been raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, a charity that funds cancer research, via her site goteameva.org in hopes of reaching her goal of $150,000.
“It was very difficult at times, but I remembered who I was running for and their pain and suffering,” she said. “What I felt is not even one-tenth of what these children go through.”
It took Casale roughly 55 hours to complete the course. She started in lower Manhattan outside the not-for-profit’s offices around 8 a.m. Friday and then breezed over the Brooklyn Bridge with a small entourage of fellow runners.
Casale was never alone. She was joined by runners at different parts of the course who pledged money to her cause. Sometimes her entourage was just one or two people, while at other times the number swelled to more than 20.
With their support, she tackled Brooklyn and Queens in less than five hours Friday, crossing into Nassau County shortly before 1 p.m.
When she arrived in Bay Shore later that night, a throng of supporters met her at Bay Shore High School track for a glow-stick run honoring Rich Arcuri, a long-time resident and runner who died last year in a work-related accident.
Arcuri was also a supporter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and as a tribute to him the Bay Shore School District presented Casale with a $1,373 donation.
Then, while most Long Islanders were probably sleeping in their beds, Casale kept pounding the pavement Friday night through Saturday, with only a few short rest breaks.
She did sleep Saturday night, but only for two hours, and she was back on the course before sunrise Sunday.
By 9:30 a.m., she was in East Hampton and had about 15 miles left to go. When she arrived at The Lobster Roll, a popular roadside eatery in Amagansett, she picked up a crowd of runners and cyclists who escorted her for the last 6 miles, but the final stretch was not easy.
They had to conquer several hills on Old Montauk Highway before they arrived at the finish in downtown Montauk shortly after 3 p.m.
There, Casale was met by Gina Gallardo, an 8-year-old cancer survivor from Syosset who presented her with a medal and a big hug.
“She’s amazing,” Gina said.
Casale said she hopes her journey brought awareness and funds to the cause, so the charity can continue to make strides toward finding a cure, “so there will be no children with cancer.”
She dedicated the final mile of the run to Julia Wilson, a 10-year-old Rocky Point girl who died of cancer last August.
“I needed to get to Julia,” Casale said.
THE LIST THAT INSPIRED HER
“Madison,” “Jack,” “Lexie” and “Dylan” were among the 98 children’s names scrawled on a piece of looseleaf paper written by 8-year-old Gina Gallardo. Each one represents a fellow cancer patient that the Syosset third grader has met during her own experiences fighting leukemia. But unlike Gina, some of them have lost their battles.
“This list is too long,” said Eva Casale, 50, of Glen Cove, while holding the paper Gina had given her. “Even one name on this list is too long.”
Hoping to change that, Casale, a seasoned ultramarathoner — the term given to people who compete in races longer than 26.2 miles — is preparing to undertake her greatest challenge yet.
On the morning of April 24, she’ll begin running 150 miles from lower Manhattan to Montauk, crossing over the Brooklyn Bridge to traverse the entire length of Long Island. She plans to complete the journey in about 50 to 55 hours, stopping for short rest breaks along the way.
Each mile, she said, will be dedicated to a child who is either fighting cancer or who has succumbed to the disease, and her goal is to raise $150,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society before she is through.
“This is my biggest event and my longest running event, so I’m hoping that it brings the research money that is needed to really help find a cure for cancer,” she said.
Last summer, Casale raised about $25,000 for the same charity when she ran seven marathons in seven consecutive days on Long Island, a total of 183.4 miles. In 2013, she also ran 100 miles, practically nonstop, from Nassau County’s North Shore to its South Shore, then back north again, to benefit the not-for-profit.
She had considered taking this year off, but shortly after finishing her seven-marathon challenge, the idea of tackling Manhattan to Montauk came up as she was celebrating with friends.
“Each year, I really feel by doing a unique event I’m bringing more awareness to the organization,” she said. “… We can just almost feel that soon there will be something that will be available to cure people with these diseases.”
Training for this year’s event has been difficult due to the long, harsh winter, Casale said, but she’s been doing her best to get in her long runs, which range between 20 and 30 miles, on weekends.
“I feel like I’m ready to go,” she added.
While running along snow-covered paths in the Massapequa Preserve one recent Sunday morning, she said she was hoping for vastly different conditions later this month.
“I’m hoping the weather is 50 to 60s,” she said. “It would be great if I could wear shorts.”
As she did during her seven marathons last year, Casale is also inviting runners of all levels to join her for different legs of her 150-mile trek in exchange for a donation to the LLS. Those interested can sign up via her fundraising site, goteameva.org.
Katie Gallardo, Gina’s mother, said her family plans to see Casale off in lower Manhattan when she starts the run, and catch up with her at different points along the course.
“She’s an amazing human being,” Gallardo, 40, said of Casale. “She can teach a lot of people in this world a lot of things.”
Gallardo said it’s been almost four years since her daughter’s acute lymphoblastic leukemia went into remission, but she said cancer is still always on her mind.
“When I go in and check on her at night, I kiss her 100 times,” she said. “I don’t take a second for granted, I count my blessings and pay it forward.”
Casale said she’s prepared for the physical pain she’ll undoubtedly endure during her latest running challenge.
“But the pain is temporary,” she said. “For those who are sick, unfortunately, the pain they feel is not.”