Summer, for recent college graduates, is a time of stressing over future jobs or relaxing after years spent studying.

For Tyler Didra, it will be a summer spent running across the country.

The recent Stevenson University grad and correspondent for The Calvert Recorder will take part in the Ulman Foundation 4K for Cancer. Didra and her team of roughly 30 runners will start at Crissy Field in San Francisco on June 16 and run across the United States, finishing on the steps of Federal Hill in Baltimore on Aug. 3.

“When I first thought about it, it didn’t sound as crazy,” Didra said. “I didn’t register until people started to question me about it.”

Didra is quick to point out it will be a team effort.

“We are all doing it together in a relay,” she said. “I’m not doing the whole length. It would be over a marathon every day; there is no way you could do that.”

There will be two teams of runners that start in San Francisco. One van of team members will drop off a pair of runners. Those runners will complete a 2-mile leg. The van will pick them up and drop off two more members to run the next 2 miles. It will continue until that day’s halfway mark when the second van will take over, and a fresh team will tackle the rest of the day’s run.

And on it will go until the entire team reaches Baltimore, with not a single mile missed.

“Someone told me that it is like five days driving. It is over 2,500 miles, and we are doing it,” Didra said. “We have some days that are rest days. Some days will be service days where we will go to cancer centers or hospitals. We are giving out a couple of scholarships from the Ulman Foundation. We will be doing different things to show our support.”

Didra found the Ulman Foundation 4K while interning there this spring. For her, it seemed like a perfect fit for her enthusiasm for running and need to give back.

“I was sick when I was young, not with cancer, but other things. The first thing that made me feel healthy when I was recovering was going for a run. I just felt so amazing after it. I felt so strong. I could take on anything in my day. To be given the opportunity to do something that helped me to help other people who are sick, it felt perfect. I’m so excited to be part of it. The Ulman Foundation does great work; they really do.”

It was also that the Ulman Foundation tends to the needs of cancer patients of Didra’s age group that drew her to the cause.

“There is a gap in cancer care,” she said. “The Ronald McDonald House cares for patients up to being 18 years old. [In your early 20s] you are in a different part of your life than someone who would get cancer in their 40s, 50s, or 60s. It is such a financially difficult time. You are trying to pay for your first house and college.

“The Ulman Foundation is trying to help with that,” Didra added. “They just built their first house in Baltimore. It is within walking distance to Johns Hopkins Hospital. So instead of paying for that hospital stay, they can stay at the Ulman House for free.”

To prepare for her part, Didra started a running regime in January.

“We have been training for months. I got my first training plan on the first of January. We cross-trained a couple of days a week. We ran a couple of different runs a week, some long distance and some shorter. I don’t think anything can prepare you mentally for what this is going to be.”

Mentally and physically, Didra is looking for a bit of rest and relaxation in the little bit of summer that she will have left after completing the 4K.

“I think it will be time spent with family and friends. I’m taking a couple of weeks off. Whatever other people want to do will be fine, I’ll just be along for the ride.”

From there, she will head back to Stevenson, not as a student having just received her degree in business communications.

She is a fitness trainer.

“I do fitness classes for the students, hopefully, for the staff as well,” she said. “I also do yoga with some of the sports teams.”

But first things first for Didra, she has a country to run across. “We see all the terrible things [in the world],” she said,”but if you stop and look around, there are a lot of great people doing a lot of great things, and this is a cause that needs the help.”

michael allshouse