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NFE Athlete Spotlight: Carly McKay

As a child, Carly McKay participated on the NF Endurance team as an NF Hero, inspiring the athletes with her story, her strength, and her joyful personality. Now an adult, Carly is part of the NF Endurance team as an athlete, raising money and awareness for NF and running in the Rock n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon. We chatted with Carly about what it’s been like going from cheering on the sidelines to racing to End NF.

To get us started, tell us about your NF journey.

By the age of 3, I developed tumors on my optic nerves, optic gliomas, that could cause vision loss for me. It was then that my parents began taking me to Children’s Hospital in San Diego for weekly chemotherapy for 2 ½ years with the hope that my tumors would not cause vision loss. After the chemo worked and shrunk my tumors I have followed up with yearly MRIs and everything is still stable and looking great!

How did you first get involved with the NF Endurance team? What can you recall about that experience?

My Mom found the NF Endurance team for the Children’s Tumor Foundation and met our friend Matthew. Matthew inspired our family to do their first marathon when I was four years old. Every step that Matthew took caused him pain, however he was determined to do the last two miles of the San Diego Rock n Roll Marathon. Every step that Matthew took caused him pain from his tumors. He lived in New York and his training took place during the cold winter months where he would walk up and down his apartment hallway to train. My preschool class and I would make posters to encourage him as he trained. I later found out he hung the posters up in his hallway to motivate him when he was training. He would say, “never raise the white flag of surrender.” Matthew was determined that no child would ever have to live the life he did.

I recall making lifelong friends and knowing I am not alone and there are other people just like me and other people have some of the same struggles I have as well.

Why did you decide to join the team as an athlete? What do you hope to accomplish? 

To be honest in the back of my head I’ve always wanted to do it after watching my family run for me. I thought it was about time for my turn! And do it for all of the other NF kids and show you can do anything and just because I have NF doesn’t mean it’s going to stop me from doing anything. Crossing the finish line was the best feeling in the world and I have never felt prouder of myself

What’s a great piece of running advice that you received?

The best advice I have is your time does NOT matter! You are one step further then the day before and you should be proud of yourself and how far I have come!

Is there anything else you want to share?

I’m a fourth year at San Jose State and hoping to be a teacher!

Visit to find a race and join the team!