Absegami High School graduate Ali Straub, 24, is an accomplished athlete. She has run both a half and a full marathon and played on a competitive club soccer squad. Soon, she'll begin her biggest - and best - athletic feat to date: biking 4,000 miles across the country for young adults with cancer.
On June 2, Straub and 29 others will leave Baltimore for a 70-day journey that will take them all the way to San Francisco.
Now just about two months from the departure date, Straub said the anticipation of the marathon ride is starting to build.
"I'm a little nervous," she said. "It's going to be really mentally and physically challenging, but I think I'm much more excited for the challenge and I think I'm much more grateful to kind of get this opportunity to give back."
Straub's route will take her southwest through Virginia, across the Appalachian trail and into southern Tennessee. From there, she will continue northwest to Missouri before heading west to Kansas and Colorado. The ride continues through the Rocky Mountains to Utah, across Nevada and culminates with a passage over the Golden Gate Bridge. When not on the road, Straub and peers will perform service days, donating their time helping or visiting with young cancer patients along the way.
The ride, called 4k for Cancer, was established in 2002 by the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults as a fundraiser for its mission of providing a support network for young adults affected by cancer. Over the past 12 years, more than 400 18- to 25-year-olds have traveled coast to coast in support of the cause.
Straub, who heard about the ride through a friend from the University of Miami whom she met while studying abroad in Valencia, Spain, said she was inspired to take part in the ride by the stories of her mother, a nurse who used to work with pediatric cancer patients in St. Louis, Mo.
When Straub and her brother were young, Straub's mother, Paula, would tell them stories about the resilience of kids she met while working at the St. Louis Children's Hospital.
"They were dealing with this incredible disease, but they were normal kids who were having fun and going to prom and stuff like that," Straub said. "I just remember it was really inspiring."
Straub has been collecting pledges for the charity since she was accepted to take part in November, and to date has raised about $2,500 of her $4,500 goal. Funds raised will go to the Ulman Cancer Fund, which provides guidance and support for young adults navigating the treatment and aftermath of cancer.
Straub's father, Pete, said he's proud of his daughter for donating her time to the cause.
"I'm very proud of her because she's actually taken time out of her life to do something for people," said her dad, who lives in Galloway Township. "I think that this is a group that's very worthwhile."
Straub graduated from Rutgers University in 2011 with a bachelor's degree in history. She lives in Philadelphia, where she is pursuing a master's degree in the same field at Temple University.
In the months since she was accepted into the program, Straub has been training hard to get in shape for the ride, and she's close to being able to complete a 60-mile circuit. And while that's an order of magnitude shy of what she'll put away this summer, Straub is confident she'll be able to make the trek.
"It's coming fast, but I am really excited," Straub said. "I think it's going to be kind of a once in a lifetime opportunity and a once in a lifetime event, so I'm excited."
For more information on 4k for Cancer or to donate, visit Straub's page on the 4k for Cancer website at 4kforcancer.org/profiles/Alexandra-straub.
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