Running Long Island for breast cancer cure
Alicja Barahona loves extremes.
The 57-year-old runner from Westchester has hit the road in temperatures ranging from 40 below to nearly 120 degrees, across 6-foot-thick ice and through scorching sands.
Her upcoming, nonstop trek across Long Island -- her fifth such journey to raise money to fight breast cancer -- is probably her least treacherous, though it's 120 miles long.
The money she raises will go to The Long Island 2 Day Walk, a nonprofit founded in 2004 to raise money for people battling breast cancer.
Ginny Salerno, the group's founder and executive director, said Barahona has raised about $10,000 for her organization through the years. The walk has raised about $3 million in all, with all proceeds going to Long Island organizations serving cancer patients and their families. The next walk is scheduled for June 11-12.
Salerno said she's grateful for every dollar Barahona has raised and that volunteers are encouraged to join her.
"We always try to get people to stay along her route," Salerno said. "Sometimes she'll call and we will run alongside her. She's so appreciative of anyone being out there for her."
Barahona said she'll stop to eat and drink but plans to keep a steady pace of about 5 mph.
The runner took up the sport when she was 42.
Married with no children, she's zipped through the Sahara and the arctic, recently returning from a 230-mile journey on Canada's frozen Mackenzie River -- a route profiled by the History Channel's "Ice Road Truckers" -- pulling her supplies behind her on a sled.
She's had a few close calls, but nothing that would stop her, not even after she risked dying of dehydration in the desert during a 2004 race.
"When I was in the Sahara and was out of water for 10 hours -- my mouth completely dried out -- I thought that was it," said Barahona, of White Plains. "I wasn't afraid. I think I am prepared for the worst, and I have always told my husband, 'If something happens, don't even go and look for me.' "
Barahona, a chemist for a pharmaceutical company, was eventually found and given water. She won the 555-kilometer race, finishing hours before the man who came in second.