Brianna Komiske, a 2017 Century High School graduate, is part of a team that will run from coast to coast to raise money for those affected by cancer.
The 21-year-old Elizabethtown College, Pennsylvania student and Sykesville native applied to run in the Ulman Foundation’s 4K For Cancer, a journey that starts in Baltimore on June 21 and ends in San Francisco on Aug. 8. The runners are fundraising, and the 21-year-old Komiske needs to reach her $5,000 goal by May 1.
The funds will benefit the Ulman Foundation, which provides direct patient services to young people with cancer. The foundation’s headquarters is in Baltimore, as is the Ulman House, which offers free housing to cancer patients ages 15 to 39 and their caregivers who need a place to stay during treatment, according to its website.
Although Komiske won’t personally run 4,000 miles, she is one of 90 young adults ages 18-25 participating in the relay-like race and believes she is the sole runner from Maryland.
Each runner will complete 6 to 16 miles per day, Komiske said. The runners split into three teams and will take different routes across the United States. Komiske’s group, Team Tetons, will run through Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, and California, according to the race route.
“We run because we want to meditate on the people who are going through a challenge," Komiske said. “These people have gone through so much worse and their bodies have endured so much more. So what is another mile?”
She also has a personal connection to the cause.
Komiske was young when her mother, Bonnie, battled salivary gland cancer, so she doesn’t remember much of it. Just a few years ago, her mother was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and Komiske remembers the doctor visits, the uncertainty, and the concern she felt. Her mother is cancer-free today and she’s cheering Komiske on as she prepares for the run.
“She never says I’m doing this for her, but, of course, a huge component is that she had cancer and I know what it’s like in my life,” Komiske said.
Komiske has been a runner for years — she ran for Century’s cross country team — and participates in a local running club in college. She and her college friend, Cassidy Dunn, saw an advertisement on social media to run across the country and applied to the 4K For Cancer. Komiske said she underwent an interview and had to prove she was fit and fast enough for the trek. Both she and Dunn were accepted and they’ve been training together.
Support vehicles will follow them along the way, and runners take breaks every 2 miles or so, keeping a 10-minute pace per mile. For Komiske, the difficult part won’t be distance, but stopping and starting day after day. When it’s time for rest, they’ll spend their nights at churches, schools, and YMCAs.
“It’s really going to be mentally more so challenging than physically,” Komiske said.
She and her teammates from across the country have been on a strict training schedule for more than 130 days. Komiske has been running 5 to 7 miles nearly every day, weightlifting, and doing core workouts. She spends about 90 minutes training each day, six days a week.
It’s challenging to fit training into her schedule with school, work, and campus life, but Komiske is committed.
“This whole run is not about me at all, nothing, not my schedule, not my people," Komiske said, "it’s just about other people, and becoming a team and doing what the team needs.”
Donations can be made online to Komiske’s fundraiser through the Ulman Foundation 4K For Cancer website. Checks can be made out to the Ulman Foundation with Brianna Komiske’s name written in the memo and mailed to Ulman Foundation, Attn: 4K for Cancer, 1215 E. Fort Ave., Suite 104, Baltimore, MD 21230.