Road warrior: Greystone woman runs from Mexico to Canada

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Nikki Harvey recently completed a journey that she says has changed her life forever. The Greystone resident ran from Mexico to Canada, raising funds for food banks in Alabama as well as the Midwest states through which she ran. 

Harvey’s run spanned 47 days and 1,849 miles. She raised more than $10,000 to help feed people in need. But it wasn’t a smooth journey to get there.

“To be fully transparent, I didn’t want to do this. When I say I didn’t want to do this, I mean I didn’t think I could do this and didn’t want to waste my time, my family’s time and any expenses tied to it,” the 49-year-old said. “The preceding weeks consisted of worry, trepidation and uneasiness. One thing I have that no one can take away from me is my word. If I say I am going to do something, I’m not backing out unless it is absolutely necessary.”

Paul Noble, a running friend of Harvey’s from the Midwest, had the idea to make the journey across the country and asked Harvey if she would be interested in joining him. She was not initially, but she decided to do it. 

“I’m so glad I did,” she said. “There are no words to express the things I’ve seen — the beauty, the people.”

Harvey’s cross-country run was almost stopped before it even began. 

“Four days before we were to leave for Mexico, I ran D3, a 24-hour race on a 400-meter track right outside of Philadelphia.

My goal was to run enough miles that I would get a spot on the 24-hour women’s team that is competing in Taipei this December,” Harvey said. Taipei is hosting the International Association of Ultrarunners 24-Hour World Championships.

“I was on track to hit my mile goal, but I sat down right before the 12-hour mark to gather myself and get my stuff ready for the second twelve hours,” Harvey said.

“Talking to [my husband] David, I looked down at the ground. The next thing I remember is telling David, ‘I feel like I’m going to throw up.’ Just as those words came out of my mouth, I started throwing up,” she continued. 

Harvey tried to rest and drink water, broth or ginger ale, but she couldn’t keep anything down, and she wasn’t improving.

“The race director, Bill Schultz, and another person pretty much carried me to the car. I only made it 12 hours,” Harvey said. “My heart and soul had gone into training for this race, and I failed. My heart was broken. Looking back, there is nothing I could have done, and I understand that now.”

Harvey said she thought of many reasons to call off the run from Canada to Mexico, including her experience in Philadelphia, but she didn’t. 

“We returned to Birmingham, and the next day left for Mexico,” she said. “There was a huge blister that had formed under one of the toenails on my left foot, and I could barely walk. … It hurt for the first two days, and either I got used to the pain, or it subsided a bit. Regardless, I lost that toenail three times in 47 days. Seven toenails total. Who knows if my feet will ever be presentable again.”

The duo started the trek on May 18, but four days into it, Noble decided he could not continue. 

“When Paul left, I had a decision to make. The easy decision, most would think, would be to pack up and go home,” Harvey said. “A lot of people tried to convince me to end it there, but I couldn’t. The decision for me was easy … to continue. I don’t know why it was such an easy decision. No one really understood it, including myself. It is a decision now that I will cherish forever.”

After Harvey completed the journey, Noble celebrated her with a Facebook post. 

“While it wasn’t the journey for me as I packed it on day four,” he said, “I’m happy that it was the right journey for Nikki. She freaking did it — Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota.”

The early days of the run were some of the toughest, Harvey said. 

“South Texas in May is no joke when it comes to heat. The first few days of our trip, the [feels-like] temperature got well over 100. I’m not sure of the actual temperature,” she said. 

For many days of the journey, Harvey had a crew, family members and friends who joined in during different legs, but for a large portion of the run, she was on her own. 

“I had my family through the first part of the run, but I did get anxious as it got closer to the time when I would be on my own,” she said. “I had never been to most of the places I was running through. There were a lot of unknowns, but I wasn’t going to stop.”

Once on her own, Harvey had a stroller to carry supplies, including extra shoes and clothing, snacks and drinks and other needed items. While she said taking the stroller was a great decision, it did suffer some flat tires a few times along the route. 

When reflecting on the trip, Harvey said the beauty of the land and the beauty of the people she met along the way are what will stay with her for the rest of her life. 

“The acts of love shown to me by friends and complete strangers is something I will never forget. From people like Kathy, who gave me shelter when I couldn’t go on, to the people who saw me running and gave me food and water,” she said. “The beauty of the country is just amazing. I’ve never really spent time in the Midwest. From the livestock in Texas and Oklahoma, to the crops in Kansas, Nebraska and Minnesota, I took it all in. Of course, I took pictures, but there is nothing that I can post that will show the beauty I’ve seen. My hope is that everyone will take the time to go on the backroads and see the beauty of our country.”

Harvey said her interactions with people are what made the most impact on her during the run. 

“There are people with needs everywhere,” she said. “Some of those needs are things like food and shelter, but some people just need a smile or someone to say a kind word to them. That is what I’m integrating more into my everyday life. I don’t want to have preconceived stereotypes about people. I want us all to stop focusing on our differences and start treating each other like humans.”

Raising funds for food banks became even more important to Harvey during the trip. 

“There is poverty everywhere, but it was many times the people who had the least who wanted to help me the most. That really meant a lot to me. I’m glad what I did will help to give back to those communities,” she said.

Harvey added a charity during her run to help a friend, Brian Boatman, who is currently battling ALS. She said his fundraising continues and donations can be made at givesendgo.com/StemcellsforBrian. 

With the positive impact the Mexico-to-Canada journey had on her, Warren said she doesn’t think this will be her last long-distance run. She said her next goal may be to run from the East Coast to the West Coast. 

“I think that would be a beautiful trip,” she said. “It’s more like 3,000 miles, but I can do it.”

Source: 280 Living