Challenge Record Holder

Anne Gasperich has completed the Homestead Challenge 14 times!

By Amy Nelson

Anne Gasperich, 63, of Pittsburgh, PA, owns the record for completing the Homestead Challenge more than any other person. Ever. Gasperich has tackled the grueling 18-mile course (with 4,500 feet of climbing) every year since 2007, earning her 14 consecutive finishes.  I had planned to post her picture on the RCTC Facebook page with a fun caption. But after swapping emails with Gasperich, it was clear to me that her story deserved more than a nod on social media. 

When will you stop doing the Homestead Challenge?  I will not stop until I am no longer able. I love it!

What inspired you to do the Homestead Challenge?  My sister Nancy did the full challenge in 2006 and we were intrigued. In spring of 2007, she started taking us on practice hikes and suggested that we might want to do the Homestead Challenge. We thought she was crazy! But after a couple hikes we were hooked and in 2007, Nancy did the full Challenge again and I did the Homestead Challenge with my sisters Pat and Marie and our friend Terry. One of the best parts of the Rachel Carson Challenge has been all the friends and family who have seen how much we loved it and have joined in over the years. 

Your sister Pat has the record for the second most Homestead Challenge finishes. Do you and Pat stick together?  We did the challenge 11 years in a row starting in 2007. We had lots of family and friends that joined in over the years, but Pat and I were the ones they were able to do it all those years in a row without a break. We started out sticking together and many years did the whole thing together but eventually started doing it independently. Pat lives in Cleveland and it was challenging for her to find hills to train on, but she was super focused and when she arrived in Pittsburgh to do the first challenge in 2007 she had memorized the entire terrain, elevation and the name of every hill on the trail… I told her a certain amount of ignorance is bliss but she did not believe me!

Final remarks?   It was especially meaningful to me that I was able to participate in the 2021 Challenge. In 2020, I was having some pain in my hip that I saw an orthopedic doctor for and it was diagnosed as a running injury. After many months of PT it did not improve and I was sent for an MRI. That was in October, 2020. The results of the MRI showed something going on that looked like metastatic cancer. After an intense couple weeks of testing I was diagnosed with stage-4 lung cancer in November 2020. I have a genetic mutation that allows me to be treated with something called targeted therapy. This keeps the cancer in check and gives me a really good quality of life. I don’t know how long it will last but I am so grateful that I am a year and a half down the road from this diagnosis and still doing all the things I love. I am always hopeful when I share this part of my story with anyone that there may be a time in their life that somebody they care about faces a diagnosis like this and they can feel hopeful because there have been so many advances in the treatment of cancer.

Not mentioned above is the speed in which Gasperich finishes. Last year she completed the course in five hours and nineteen minutes, with 200 people behind her. Not too shabby! And it goes without saying, Gasperich will be back at it on June 18, well positioned to complete her 15th Homestead Challenge!