Helene Neville isn’t a quitter. But this past August when a truck pulled up beside her on a remote road in Montana and three men attempted to abduct her, the 55-year-old grandmother, cancer survivor, and registered nurse, almost threw in the towel in her epic quest to run around the perimeter of the US. “It wasn’t a good scene,” Neville tells PEOPLE. “I elbowed and punched them, then sprinted off. I was so numb afterwards that I almost quit my run.”
But the intrepid Neville decided to keep at it. And on Sept. 15 – after 330 nonconsecutive days – she trotted across the finish line in Ocean Shores, Washington, after logging more than 9,715 miles, making her the fourth person to complete the trek.
“I kind of love challenges,” says Neville, who took up long distance running in 1998, shortly after learning that her Hodgkin’s Lymphoma had returned and her doctors told her to “go home and get her affairs in order.” Instead, she decided that it would be more fun to try and run the Chicago Marathon.
By 2010, she’d survived three brain surgeries, countless rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. She came up with the idea that she wanted to inspire other nurses to be better ambassadors for healthy living and headed out on a 93-day run from Ocean Beach, California, to Atlantic Beach, Florida, stopping at hospitals and cancer centers along the way to talk with health care workers and patients.