Three years ago, my husband came up with this oddball idea to start a Harry Potter virtual running club. After explaining what exactly a virtual running club was, I had a second question: why?
That single-word question has marked our mission every day since. It is a simple question with a multitude of answers. Brian’s original goal was to raise $500 for charity. Three years later, we have raised over a million dollars for many charities.
The answer to that ‘why’ easily comes back to one thing — our community. We have been fortunate enough to build a large community of dedicated runners and walkers of all levels who love Harry Potter, love running for a cause, and love Hogwarts Running Club.
We are changing the “Muggle” world, one mile at a time. Each event supports one charity, nominated by a member, who has shown that they directly impact the community they are serving. When we announced that To Write Love on Her Arms was going to be the Charity Partner for our Unmasked 10 mile ‘Run For Your Life,’ the response was overwhelming. Over the last few weeks, members have been sharing their stories about their struggles with mental illness. These stories are raw and poignant — and a testament to the safety they feel within the space of our online community.
We all know that the internet can be a dreadfully scary place. With the protection of a keyboard, filters against cruelty have all but gone out the window. Hogwarts Running Club is a protected place; one free of judgment, trolling, and general nastiness. HRC is a unicorn; rare and magical, beautiful and strange. Such an amazing thing requires constant care, but we love every minute of it. The rarity of our space was never more apparent than when we partnered with TWLOHA.
As I read each and every story of the daily battles my people were facing, and the grace and dignity in which they fight, I was reminded of my own struggles of making peace with my own demons: Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, PTSD, suicidal ideations, and sexual assault. It became strikingly clear as people held up HRC as one of the reasons they were still moving, still fighting, still living, that HRC fits that same bill for me as well. It took 40 years for me to find my purpose in this world, but my husband’s silly idea was the key to my own mental health. Through HRC, I get to create, build, give, and grow. Through HRC, I get to be the me I never thought possible.
Running is a great metaphor for the struggle with mental illness. When you are running, there is a constant dialogue in your head…at least there is in mine. The voice that says ‘No way you can run a full mile;’ ‘You look ridiculous;’ ‘You will never be fast;’ ‘You are weak — just quit.’
That last one is the worst.
It brings to mind all of the times the depression was just too much. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t breathe. I was weak and wanted to quit. But I didn’t. I pushed through the pain and the fog and the belief that I was not good enough.
When you cross the finish line of your first half-marathon, no matter where you place, there is a sense that you can do anything. You have just accomplished something that most of the world has not and you did it through training and perseverance. It was not easy, nor was it always fun. It took a lot of time and it pushed your body to limits you didn’t know you had.
All of this applies to battling your own mind in the fight against mental illness. Regardless of your flavor of diagnoses, you have to make the conscious choice to get up, get out there, and do the hard work of getting healthy. And while some of us are lucky enough to have a strong support system, just like running, this is a solo sport. Crushing that voice that says ‘You are weak — just quit’ rests solely with you. But you are not alone.
Organizations like TWLOHA are here to help you figure out the challenges of mental health. Hogwarts Running Club is here to help you figure out the challenges of physical health. Combined, the results are a force to be reckoned with. No matter where you are in your journey, whether you are still figuring out how to get off the couch or you are crossing finish lines with relative ease, there is a place for you.
Find your place in this world and own it. Plant your flag and stand your ground. Remember to be kind to yourself. Remember to breathe.
You are strong. You do not quit.
Hogwarts Running Club is encouraging the Unmasked 10 Miler to take place on May 2; however, registration is open until May 8. It is an absolute honor to be selected as their charity partner for this virtual run, and we hope you will consider joining this crew of people who are always doing #somuchgood. For more information and to register, please visit this page.