Melanoma Made Alicia Bowling Run for Her Life

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Ellie Pell

By: Ellie Pell

Ellie is an equal opportunity DMer with no shame in a cold call. She ran fast once and will remind you that it was before supershoes. Recently she set the FKT from her kitchen table to the fridge. Record pending drug test results.

You Made it Weird With Alicia Bowling

A note from Freetrail: You know Ellie Pell from the Rest Day Pod, but did you know she has an insatiable need to get to know you, and I mean REALLY get to know you? “You Made it Weird” is Ellie’s brainchild because while she loves that these athletes are mega-talented she also wants to know what ELSE IS THERE?! Look for You Made it Weird every Friday. 

Alicia Bowling will not slow down. She can’t because she’s running for her life. At the ripe young age of 24 after just giving birth to her first child, she was diagnosed with Stage III Nodular Malignant Melanoma. Since then she has been diagnosed with melanoma tumors two more times. She won’t give up and after reading about her, you won’t either. Alicia does it all, marathons, ultras, and backyard events where there is no finish line. During cancer treatment, there were days she did not want to get out of bed. These days, she uses that resolve to inspire others and bring awareness to melanoma cancers through running really really far. Alicia is who you need to read about today, then give her a follow. You’ll be glad you did.

Find Alicia on Instagram and Ultrasignup.

Alicia Bowling

Who are you and what do you do?  

My name is Alicia Ann Bowling and I’m a 41 year old Kentucky Momma to two amazing kids, Alivia and Andrew. We live in Ashland, KY with my super fun boyfriend, crew chief, and favorite adventure partner, Lenny (yep, he’s all that and a bag of chips.) For work, I’m an ultrasound technologist at the Hershel Woody Williams VA Medical Center.  

I love BIG and I’m trying my best to test my limits, keep going, encourage others, and explore all that I am before my time on earth is up. I’m a person who wants the others around me to know they can accomplish more than they think…They are more than they see in themselves and to know that struggling is ok, and you can survive, and prosper in spite of it’s pain. 

I found a love for running a bit later in life after getting through some major health challenges.  At the age of 24 I was diagnosed with cancer. Life was just getting started for us. I had just graduated college with my bachelors degree in Radiologic Sciences, specializing in Ultrasound, from Morehead State University and landed my first job as an Ultrasound technologist. Livi was only 6 months old at the time. At first, I kinda laughed. It’s just the “cut it out and you’ll be fine” kind, right? I could see the seriousness in my doctor’s eyes as she leaned in, lovingly touched my leg and said, “This is serious. This is stage 3 Melanoma.” After that day I went into survival mode; researching treatments, gaining knowledge and gaining control in any way I could about this beast in front of me. I endured multiple surgeries, multiple PET scans, Multiple CT scans, lymphoscintigraphy, little blue dots were tattooed over my cancerous lymph nodes in my groin. I endured a year of high dose chemotherapy. 1 year of 5 days per week the first month and 3 days per week the next 11 months. That was until I had a stroke one cold November day that landed me in the hospital with a blood infection. I went on to have 2 more cancer battles after Andrew was born. During this time, my good friend, Joe, was also diagnosed with the same kind of cancer as me. We connected through our shared hatred of this wicked cancer, but he also shared with me his passions. He was a runner and mountain biker, I was neither. He told me that when I beat this, I need to run a 5K. “Don’t walk it, run it and show cancer who’s boss.” Later that year my friend’s scans revealed he was not going to survive this. He was just 33 when he passed away. After his death I started the couch to 5K program. I couldn’t run a half mile without needing to walk, but within 4 weeks I ran my first ever 5K at the age of 30 in 30 minutes and “Showed Cancer who’s Boss!” I know to most of you speedsters that are reading this, must think that’s a super slow 5K time, and you’re probably wondering how I even ended up here…yeah, me too! That was just the beginning. I’m still no future Olympian, but I’m working to be the strongest version of me that I can be.   

Do any of your group chats have names? 

My group chat with my children is titled: My fetuses. That name came about because my daughter, Alivia, when referring to a little baby or toddler or anyone younger than her, she’ll call them a fetus or fetuses, almost in utter disgust and angered because of how annoying they are. I just thought it would be funny to throw that name on our group chat 😊 

I also have a group chat with my co-workers, Queen Ultrasound Beotches and nothing is off limits in this group.  

If you could change one thing about your fave social media platform, what would it be?

I just wish there was a better way to manage and rid our social platforms of hackers/trolls/bots or whatever these not so nice creatures may be. 

What is a book of fiction that you really enjoyed, for no other reason than you liked it? 

The Kite Runner.   

What is one song you’ve been listening to on repeat recently? 

Heart of Stone by Whiskey Myers 

What is one trend that started in 2020 that you love?  

I love that more people started getting outdoors and exploring nature. 

What is one trend that started in 2020 that you hate? 

Social distancing.. Canceled School…Zoom learning.  My kids didn’t learn a thing all year except a bunch of silly TikTok challenges.

What are the last three emojis you used?  

😊😊 😊 

What is the last thing you bought online? 

Peppermint and rosemary hair oil. It smells so good! 

Alicia Bowling

What is your most controversial food opinion?  

I don’t judge what others eat, but people get outraged when I tell them that peanut butter is disgusting and has to be the worst texture/consistency/taste of anything I’ve ever had in my life. I hate PB&J’s and really wish aid stations would stop having such an abundance of them at every race I run (totally being sarcastic—but really, why do y’all love this disgusting food?).

What three videos are at the top of your youtube recommended homepage?

EVERY MILE EARNED-The Inaugural Jigger Johnson 100 mile by Aravaipa Running 

Don’t Stay in SHELTERS on the Appalachian Trail by Tara Treks 

Last Man Standing Ultramarathon-The Race With Only One Finisher by Nick Bare 

Which Allie is your favorite?   

My favorite Ali is Ali from Lavish Salon. She’s the one who styles mine and my kids hair, even though I’m last min asking for appointments, she always finds a way to work us in. She’s the best!

What argument in mass media do you not understand or think is a worthless issue?  

Almost EVERYTHING politics! Too much talk and no action. All these people do is argue about whatever it is they’re passionate about, tick each other off, and still nothing is accomplished. Turn off the news and just go outside. Get away from the TV/computer and actually talk to people. I really feel if we could understand where people are coming from we’d understand why they feel so strongly about the things they do and maybe we could make better decisions about things that truly affect so many. 

When you go home for the holidays, what is the food or tradition that it wouldn’t be the holidays without? 

My Mom’s homemade dressing. The smell of onions, celery, and carrots sauteed in butter and then mixed in a baking dish with homemade breading and spices.The fragrant sage fills the air as it bakes and it smells so good!

When I say in-seam you say…..? 

How long??  Lol, seriously, maybe I’m just old, but I think of inseams as the crotch to hemline measurement in pants. This is why I wear shorts to run, almost always, because most inseams in leggings are way too long and the crotch hangs way too low causing me some aggressive chafe in the lady parts. 

When has your ego caused you to do something you sort of regret but also would describe as wild and worth it?  

That one time I told off this jerk of a vascular surgeon, that we all hated to work with, during an OR case full of his staff. I think I would’ve gotten a standing ovation if everyone’s hands weren’t sterilized and inside this patient’s artery. You could see the fear, but also satisfaction and joy in their eyes. After the case, I immediately went to my supervisor’s office to tell her I’ll likely get fired after letting the things in my mind come out of my mouth. Thankfully, nothing actually happened, and I think the surgeon respected me more after that situation. Definitely an empowering moment! 

What was your worst running fuel decision? What was surprisingly your best? 

My worst running fuel decision was probably not hydrating enough during the Damn Yeti 50km. I had shingles and was just getting over a bad stomach virus three days prior, but still thought it was a good idea to go run the race. I justified it because, “it’s an easy one, it’s not technical, it’s mostly downhill and flat.” I didn’t factor in the fact that it’s hot, the humidity was off the charts, it’s 31 miles and no matter the terrain…It’s still THIRTY-ONE MILES and there’s nothing easy about that, especially when my body is in a depleted and susceptible state.  

The morning of the race I was still having some GI issues, took meds and shuttled to the start.  At the first aid station I already knew I was in for it with the worst intestinal wreckage, but still decided to carry on. To make a long story short, I continued having horrible stomach issues the entire race and was dealing with dizziness, fatigue, cold and clammy sweats. I finished the race and made the 4 hr drive back home but noticed I had the most horrible pain in my legs, way worse than normal post run muscle soreness. The next morning I woke up and could barely urinate …like my kidneys were not making urine and the urine it did make was about a shot glass full of dark red pee. I called my Dr, who is also a great friend, and she told me she thinks I have Rhabdo and to get to the ER immediately. Sure enough, my CK was through the roof. I was in kidney failure and had to get 11 bags of IV fluids pumped in me and hope my kidneys start working again. I spent about 5 days in the hospital and learned I should probably do a better job at listening to my body. No race finish is worth dying over. 

My best running fuel decision has to be when I ran Ohio’s Backyard Ultra 2023. Lenny crewed me and had everything ready for me each loop. I alternated between water and Hyle each lap to take with me in my handheld. When I’d get back to camp after the Hyle lap I’d grab a small snack (chips, candy,grapes, cheese). After the water lap I’d eat ramen or pancakes. Every 4 hours I’d drink a protein shake. I kept this on repeat for 24 hrs/100 miles. I had to drop out of the race at 24 hours because I had to go pick up my kids, but otherwise, I believe I had a lot more miles in me, as it’s the best I’ve ever felt 100 miles in. 

What is your death row meal?  

 A huge Charcuterie board with various cheeses from Aldi (swiss, sharp cheddar, pepper jack, cream cheese, baby bells), olives, pickles, crackers, dark chocolates, strawberries, big crunchy green grapes, avocado and cream cheese rolls, and lots of Prosecco wine. 

Out and back or looped course?  Why?  

I like both, but I have more experience with a looped course because of the backyard ultra format. I just love the community you form during a loop. I love talking to others out there and hearing their stories. Running for me is all about the family/community experience and feeling stronger together.

Barkley or 24H track race?  Why?  

Well… I’d probably have better chances of actually finishing the 24H track race, but I bet I’d have a ton more fun at Barkley. I like the idea of the thrill of the journey at Barkley …the searching, hunting, and navigating (although I’m terrible at Navigating with or without a map.)  I’d definitely have to latch onto another runner to get anywhere in the Barkley. 

When I say PTRA you say? 

Pat That Round A$$ 

When I say UTMB you say? 

Uhhhh They Making Bank 

Alicia Bowling

What is one thing that absolutely scares you?  Why?  

Being trapped in an enclosed space. Coffins freak me out and definitely don’t want anyone digging a big hole in the ground and throwing me in it. I’d rather be burned to ashes, please! 

What is a time you felt you didn’t measure up? How did you get through that?  

Can we talk about the last 3 years of my life?!?! My marriage of 21 years was failing, I felt like I was failing my kids because I couldn’t make my marriage work and I didn’t want them to have to live in two separate homes. So for a while we tried but it was too tumultuous of a living environment that I got to the point I was either going to get divorced or want to die. Not trying to be dramatic, it’s literally how I felt. I moved out of the home that I raised my kids in, I left boxes of memories in the basement, I grieved the run routes I’d run when I could just open my front door and hit the road, I grieved what used to be. The day I moved out, my daughter grabbed my wrist and drew a smiley face with her pink marker – it’s like she knew I needed a smile to get through that day. The transition was very tough, my running suffered tremendously, I just didn’t have the desire to want to run. For the longest time, running was my escape and that’s why I ran so much, but now that I was no longer running from something, I had to find a new purpose to run. It’s been the toughest thing I’ve ever been through, but after almost two years now, we are all in a better place and everyone has adjusted well and is moving forward.  

It just takes time. Like Cheryl Strayed says, “You let time pass. That’s the cure. You survive the days. You float like a rabid ghost through the weeks. You cry and wallow and lament and scratch your way back up through the months. And then one day you find yourself alone on a bench in the sun and you close your eyes and lean your head back and you realize you’re ok.” 

Who is another runner that flies under the radar that we should all get to know? 

I am fortunate to be around a community of some serious runners such as Caleb Bowen, HollyAnn Swann, Dan Green, Alex Minor, and Tanner Lee. The one I really feel doesn’t get the recognition they deserve is Dan Green. This guy is so much fun, such a live wire, and has a big vision of where he wants to be in life. When things don’t go as well as he plans, like at Javelina 100, he doesn’t get all down and out, he just learns from it and makes adjustments. He was 4th place at Javelina by the way!!! He also works at our local Run Shop and fits my kids for their cross country spikes each season – they just love him!!  He’s just an awesome dude y’all should get to know! 

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