Emily Hanlon set out on the Pacific Coast Trail’s Oregon section from the California border on Aug. 1, She reached Washington on Aug. 9, traversing the state’s 455 miles of trail in seven days, 19 hours and 23 minutes — that’s about 57 miles a day and a record time for both men and women.
Hanlon, 35, did not find her speed from the thrill of competition, rather her motivation came from the desire to honor her mother, Andrea Hanlon. A few months ago, she passed away from cancer.
“It was a celebration of my mom — she was my fuel. There have been days when the grief is crushing,” Emily Hanlon told the Statesman-Journal. “Channeling myself into this, into something that would make her proud and that felt like it mattered, was my way of working through it.”
Hanlon decided to celebrate her mother’s life by running, a hobby they had shared. As she ran, she raised $32,000 for the Brave LikeGabe Foundation, which supports rare cancer research and empowers cancer survivors through physical activity, honoring Gabriele “Gabe” Grunewald – an inspirational runner who continued to prepare for the next race despite her fight against rare cancer.
As with many victories, Hanlon did not do this one alone. She had a team of friends who encouraged her along the way, including her boyfriend and puppy. On her Instagram, she described many of the difficulties she faced on the trail, as well as the many high points. Through it all, she focused on her mom and that is what kept her going.
“I think of my mom a lot. About how all I want in the world is to call her. I think about Gabe. And the bumpy road of rare cancer. I know I won’t quit on them. I know I won’t quit on myself,” Hanlon wrote on her Instagram the final day of her hike.