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N.C. firefighter runs for 24 hours straight to raise money for cancer charity

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

OK, Michel, how far would you go to raise awareness about something that really mattered to you?

(LAUGHTER)

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

You put me on the spot.

INSKEEP: I mean, literally...

MARTIN: I've only had one cup of coffee. I don't know - pretty far.

INSKEEP: I mean, literally - would you run for miles? Would you run for a hundred miles even? Would you do that?

MARTIN: I wish I could, Steve, but thankfully, we've heard of somebody who can. Mike Riley can, and he can tell you exactly how far he'd go. He ran more than 100 miles going for more than 24 hours.

INSKEEP: Wow.

MARTIN: Riley is a firefighter in Asheville, N.C. And last weekend, he repeated a seven-mile loop for an entire day to bring attention to the link between firefighting and cancer.

MIKE RILEY: Well, just in my life as a firefighter, cancer's affected me pretty dramatically. In the last four years, the Asheville Fire Department's lost four active-duty members to occupational cancer.

INSKEEP: Firefighters die from cancer at a higher rate than the general population, according to the CDC. And the World Health Organization says cancer is an occupational risk of this profession.

RILEY: I think a lot of things are still coming to light, the kind of the revelation that are - not only are the things that are burning in fires are giving us occupational cancer, but our turnout gear itself is also contributing to the problem.

INSKEEP: His run raised money for early screening and testing, but he says the money was not the main goal.

RILEY: I was more interested in the awareness aspect and getting it out there to the public that this was something that needed to happen, that we were paying for our own physicals, our own screenings and taking care of each other.

MARTIN: Running 24 hours straight got brutal, as you can imagine, but towards the end he was in good spirits. He says he was encouraged by all the people who came out to run alongside him.

INSKEEP: Those runs to raise awareness and money for other fire departments across the state of North Carolina. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.