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Eva Casale running 100 miles for blood cancer battle

Eva Casale, of Glen Cove, seen here in

Eva Casale, of Glen Cove, seen here in 2011, plans to run 100 miles this weekend by completing the 50-mile Bethpage Ocean to Sound Relay Race course twice to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Credit: Handout

By the time runners show up to the starting line of the 50-mile Bethpage Ocean-to-Sound Relay Race at Jones Beach in Wantagh Sunday morning, Eva Casale will already have completed the course once.

Casale, 48, of Glen Cove, will be getting a big head start, because she plans to run the entire course -- which is intended for relay teams of eight -- by herself, twice. While most of the participants in the race will log anywhere between five and seven miles each, Casale intends to do 100 miles, finishing in about 25 hours.

She’ll start Saturday at 3 p.m., leaving from the finish line at the Oyster Bay train station, and run the course backward through Oyster Bay Cove, Syosset, Cold Spring Harbor, Huntington, Old Bethpage, Farmingdale, Massapequa, Seaford and Wantagh. She’ll run throughout the night, allowing herself breaks of no longer than five minutes, and expects to arrive at Field 2 of Jones Beach between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. Then, she’ll touch the starting line and run the course from the beginning, while the rest of the race participants are still sleeping.

“She is just amazing,” said Kathleen Stanley, who will be part of the five-person crew tending to Casale’s needs throughout her run. “She has the determination and the strength to do it.”

Stanley and the rest of the crew will take turns running with Casale during the night, and following along in a van equipped with everything Casale could possible need. There’s extra sneakers, clothes and various types of fuel including gummy bears, pretzels, electrolytes, and boiled potatoes covered in salt, Stanley said.

This same crew supported Casale when she recently completed her 27th ultramarathon in February, a 126.2-mile race through Louisiana.

“This is a total adrenaline rush for us,” said Stanley, 43, of Hicksville. “We don’t sleep, we smell, we’re drinking coffee at 4 a.m., but we love it.”

Finishing is not guaranteed, though. When Casale ran a 100-mile race in Vermont in July, she said she had to stop around the 80-mile mark because she was so exhausted she started hallucinating.

This will be the first time Casale is attempting to run the Ocean-to-Sound course twice, but she did complete the 50-mile race as an individual in 2009, 2010 and 2011 to raise money and awareness for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

She decided to double her efforts this year for the 25th anniversary of Team in Training, a program that trains novice athletes to compete in endurance events such as marathons and triathlons, while raising funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Casale, who has been participating with Team in Training as a runner and coach since 2007, hopes her running feat will encourage others to donate. In honor of the anniversary, she’s set a fundraising goal of $25,000.

She’s been encouraging friends and family to donate online via her Web page, and sold Team in Training beach towels during the summer. More than 25 people including Team in Training members and alumni, and cancer survivors have also each pledged $100 for the privilege of running alongside Casale during one of the final legs of the course.

“Eva took on this journey single-handedly, which is truly awe-inspiring in itself,” said Sara Lipsky, executive director of the Long Island Chapter of LLS. “However, along the way she’s had this outpouring of support -- many past participants of hers, volunteers and cancer survivors will be taking the course in a show of solidarity and all in the name of cancer.”
By the end of her journey, Casale expects her pace will have slowed to around a 14-minute mile. She’s aiming to cross the finish line around 4 p.m., joined by at least four people who have been diagnosed with blood cancer.

“I feel honored that these people will be coming out to be by my side, to help me,” Casale said. “I’ll be crying during that last leg.”

Even when they’re not running by her side, Casale said these people are often with her in spirit when she runs. When she’s struggling, she thinks of them.

“I might be tired or in pain, but it’s just temporary and anything I feel is nothing compared to what a person with cancer is feeling or has gone through,” she said. “Every step I’m taking, I hope, is toward a cure.”

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