Why this nurse has run more than 20 marathons

With more than 29 years of experience in nursing, business and coaching, Helene Neville, a grandmother, has dedicated her career to helping others. After surviving a cancer scare in the mid-1990s, she decided to support people in a different way: through running.

Ms. Neville's fight against cancer included three brain surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation. Despite subsequent health setbacks after finishing her treatment, she decided to run a marathon, according to her website. And she hasn't stopped since. After running in the London marathon, Ms. Neville qualified for the Boston Marathon. She later placed third overall female in the Warner Robins (Ga.) Marathon. In 2001, she single-handedly founded the Des Moines Marathon, earning her the Runner's World George Sheehan Golden Shoe Award and was a finalist for the Iowa Star Award. In total, she has competed in more than 20 marathons.

In 2010, Ms. Neville began her most ambitious goal: a run around the perimeter of the United States. It took her only 93 days to run the 2,520 miles from Ocean Beach, Calif., to Atlantic Beach, Fla. Beginning in May 2013, she ran 1,500 miles over 45 days from Vancouver, British Columbia to Tijuana, Mexico. Starting in May 2014, she ran from Marathon, Fla., to Maine, a span of 2,000 in 67 days. The final leg of her journey began May 1, 2015 and ended in September, making her the first cancer survivor and grandmother to ever run the perimeter of the continental United States.

"I run to help people rethink the impossible," said Ms. Neville, who ran at least 25 miles a day while still making time to speak to community groups along her route, according to Mayo Clinic. She stops at hospitals, veterans facilities, national guard headquarters, fire departments and police departments. 

"I believe that we can restore the health of America," said Ms. Neville, according to her website. "But it's up to you and me to take positive action to ensure that the future is everything it can possibly be."

Ms. Neville is the founder of Well-Fit, a coaching corporate health and fitness strategies company. She has been recognized for her service in the Iowa Department of Public Health as well as for numerous volunteering positions and her work as an advocate for public health. She's authored three books, including Nurses in Shape: The Right Dose!, One on the Run: 93 Days Across America and One on the Run: Border to Border.

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