Before running the Stone Mill 50 mile Trail Run on Saturday, I felt different than any race I have ever run. Usually I sign up for races and just go run because I like to run! When I come home, right away the kids ask, “What place did you get dad?” to which I usually respond “100th, 1,000th or 5,000th.” They innocently wonder why I didn’t win and we get a good laugh. This race was different. I was running for a cause that affects my family so deeply and for the first time I was really nervous before the race. People were counting on me, thinking, praying, texting, emailing and calling me. Many of these people were family and friends, but some were people I didn’t even know.
When Tara and I shared our story a few weeks ago, we were absolutely blown away by the response. Tara was especially nervous to share, but realizing the positive impact that we can make by sharing our story only makes us want to do more. We are so humbled and thrilled that we have raised over $5,000!! We are excited to be bringing a This is My Brave show to Baltimore in the Spring. We will share more details soon!
This could not have happened without the support of so many people. We wanted to thank everybody who has reached out to us to share a piece of their story, have donated, have thought of us, and have offered encouragement.
When I initially posted and shared our story, I opened by saying depression and 50 Miles don’t have much in common. After running 50 Miles, I realized there actually is a lot of common ground between the two in our family. Being a spouse for 17 years of somebody who suffers from major depression has taught me many things. One of the greatest lessons I have learned is that it takes a team to help manage this disease and also found out on Saturday it takes a team to run 50 miles.
A 50 miler is a lot like life; there were so many ups and downs that happened along the way and the more people you have around you to help, the better things can be. My brother Pete and I trained together for many months and ultimately ran the entire race together. We were exhausted, hungry and sore but we knew we had each other’s back. For 11 hours we pushed each other and neither of us was going to let the other person quit. Pete was a machine out there and without him pushing me in training runs and teaching me valuable lessons about running/diet I would not have finished. My father left his house at 3:00AM and drove us both to the race and met us at every stop along the course with our gear. When you have nothing left to move in your body, and you see somebody there supporting you at every stop to give you a high five and ask, “How can I help?” … it motivates you to keep pushing. To keep fighting. My sister-in-law Kristin (Pete’s wife who has given us so much support), their three kids along with Tara and my four kids drove almost 2 hours each way to support us at two of the stops where we felt the worst. This turned out to be perfect timing b/c that is when we needed support the most! Seeing my wife Tara at mile 24 who has battled depression her whole life wearing her “This is my Brave” shirt made me forget about pain, tiredness, soreness and relish the moment and what we are trying to do. Tara is such an amazing mother, wife, friend and everything to people, she gives 120% into everything she does, and I love her more than anything. She battles depression every day and it can crash down at any second. You can’t predict it, you can’t time it but if you can share you story and have a team that supports you it can change lives.
Just like life vs a 50 miler, each part of the race presented unpredictable outcomes. On mile 15, I felt like this is easy; on mile 20 I didn’t think I could go one more mile (until I ate ramen noodles); on mile 35, I felt like I could go for 100 miles; and on mile 36, I thought I was done! But knowing what we are trying to do (and eating a lot of tater tots), there was nothing that would have stopped me from finishing.
When Pete and I had only 3.5 miles left in the race, my dad snapped a picture and sent it to our families. They all responded with relief and excitement knowing that we were just about done. Once again, just like life, you can never be too sure what lies around the corner. Just like mental illness, you never can truly predict when something will trigger a depressive episode or an anxiety attack. ½ of a mile after that picture was taken, a loose dog came sprinting behind us on the trail and knocked me flat on my back. I was in shock for a moment and quickly realized that had it not been for the water pack on my back, I may have been badly injured. Pete checked to make sure I was ok, I got up and together we headed to the finish. We crossed the finish line before the sun set and just at the point where we could not take another step. The first person we saw was our father with a full smile after 11 hours of support.
This one day brought about an experience of teamwork and fight that my family battles every day. To be able run for a cause that is so important to us, this made our family stronger and more determined than ever to make a difference.
“My competition is not against the runner next to me. It is against the runner inside of me.”