The idea of running around 135 miles in nine days on the Jersey shore this summer to raise funds for Hurricane Sandy relief seemed far-fetched to Lou Mialhe at first.
“I heard about it a couple of months ago; I didn’t think that it was that realistic,” said Princeton High runner Mialhe, noting that track teammates Julie Bond and Paige Metzheiser formulated the plan.
“I thought they were just joking around. Julie initiated everything and when she mapped out all of the routes, I realized that it was going to happen.”
Once Mialhe realized that the project, which was done in conjunction with the Alliance for a Living Ocean to raise funds to rebuild dunes damaged by the superstorm, was coming to fruition, she was all in.
“First of all I really liked the girls; we are all good friends and runners,” said Mialhe, who was joined in the effort by Evie Bentch, Laure Hartmanshenn, and Raakel Vuojolainen, in addition to Bond and Metzheiser.
“It was also a good idea to do something to help the shore. I love the beach and the dunes and I knew so much damage had resulted from Hurricane Sandy.”
The girls took off on June 24 on a route that started in Sandy Hook and ended in Cape May.
“It was really great; I really enjoyed running on the boardwalk,” said Mialhe, reflecting on the group’s first day on the road.
“We were wearing shirts that said what we were doing and people would stop and talk with us and clap for us.”
There was some trial and error involved as the girls figured out the best way to handle their daily 15-mile journey.
“At first we were doing four miles of running and one mile walking but that was way too hard,” said Mialhe, noting that the runs started early in the morning and ended by noon each day and that the group ended up covering a total of 139.3 miles.
“Then we went to eight minutes running and two minutes walking but we wanted to break longer. We finally decided on two-and-a-half miles running and a half-mile of walking. All of us ran together and each girl covered 15 miles a day.”
Things did drag at times as the girls headed inland for part of the trip.
“We ran two days on Route 9,” said Mialhe, noting that one of the girls’ parents always accompanied the pack in a chase car and that they spent nights at beach homes of family or friends. “Those were boring days; we were not on the beach.”
For Mialhe, a highlight came on one of the beach runs near the end of the trek. “I really enjoyed Ocean City,” said Mialhe. “I had never been there before and I thought it was really interesting.”
With such an ambitious undertaking, aches and pains were inevitable. “After day three, my quads were very sore,” said Mialhe.
“The other girls were sore too so we spent an hour stretching and icing everyday. We all helped each other on the run. If someone was falling off, we would run behind her,”
On the final day, Mialhe experienced mixed emotions. “It was such a great adventure; I didn’t want it to end,” said Mialhe. “There was a lot of sadness.”
While Mialhe was sorry to see the run end, she is hopeful the group may do other fundraising activities in the future.
“It was a lot of fun; we were living with each other for 10 days,” said Mialhe, noting that the fundraising goal was $5,000 and that contributions of around $4,000 had been raised by the end of the run.
“There was a sense of accomplishment. I feel like I would do it again; it was such an interesting experience. We are talking about organizing something else and making it a regular thing.”
In the short term, making the journey should pay dividends for PHS when cross country season rolls around.
“It was great training,” said Mialhe. “If we can keep that shape, it should really help us for cross country.”
But no matter what happens this fall, Mialhe and her friends have already done a great thing.