This story was originally published in Newsday on April 23, 2007
Shortly before six o'clock in the morning, Alijca Barahona, strolled down to the beach near the lighthouse in Montauk Point State Park. She dangled her fingers in the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean, then turned around, ran out of the park and on to Montauk Highway.
She kept going for the next 29 hours. That was Saturday.
Yesterday, shortly after 11 a.m., Barahona, 55, crouched down a bit shakily in North Woodmere Park and dipped her hand into Hook Creek, on the border of Nassau and Queens.
It was a symbolic ending to a remarkable two-day road trip.
Barahona, an elite ultradistance runner from Greenburgh in Westchester County, ran 120 miles from Montauk to Queens in what she called "The Running Fight for Breast Cancer." She is believed to be the first person to complete a solo run across the length of Nassau and Suffolk.
A chemist from Poland who has lived in the United States for 16 years, Barahona completed her run without sleeping and without stopping for anything more than bathroom breaks. Yet, she bounded into the park, bright-eyed and chipper.
"She looks like she could do another 120," marveled captain Brad Gitlin of the Hewlett Volunteer Fire Department, who blasted the sirens of his fire engine to celebrate Barahona's finish.
"I feel great," she said. "No blisters, no cramps, no stiffness."
Barahona, who has competed in ultradistance events from Africa to Alaska, said she ran the length of Long Island because she felt "I had to do something" about breast cancer, particularly when, during one week in early March, she learned that three people she knew had been diagnosed with the disease.
When she heard about the Long Island 2-Day Walk to Fight Breast Cancer, Barahona thought a run across Nassau and Suffolk could help build awareness about that event, which is held in June and raises money for local breast cancer charities.
Barahona plans to be back at work today, but will soon resume her training in preparation for a 145-mile race in England on May 26-27. Then she'll return to New York to participate in the Long Island walk, on June 9-10, when she'll walk with about 300 other women from Smith Point County Park to Cathedral Pines County Park in Middle Island and back again; "only" 35 miles.