I found running in September of 2010.
After a series of events and life changes, I was struggling. I wasn’t depressed—but I wasn’t happy either. Just existing in the day-to-day, floating from one moment to the next.
A video about a guy named Ben was sent around to the TWLOHA staff that September. This video showed Ben using running to combat his depression and achieve happiness. I was fascinated. His story—simple, honest, and real—moved me. He had used running to build confidence, get in shape, and ultimately discover the joy he was missing in his life. His story inspired me. I laced up my tennis shoes and hit the running trail by my house.
Less than a mile into my grand adventure, I was sitting on a log, crying. Running was hard. Running was not what I expected.
But I didn’t give up. Each day I found myself setting a new running goal.
“Make it to that stop sign.”
“Make it to that tree.”
“Make it to the next corner.”
Each step aligned with a desire of my heart. Each new milestone I reached encouraged me to keep going, to keep trying. I started tracking my progress in a journal, and each day I saw more self-affirmation, wrote words I never thought I would say.
“I RAN half a mile! WooOooOoo!”
“I’m so proud of myself.”
“I can’t believe the things I can do.”
“I feel amazing!”
I found a new hobby. I found happiness. I found purpose. I found life.
For these reasons, I decided to plan the Run For It 5K. Many of my co-workers from the TWLOHA staff have watched my journey from my first 5K to my first half marathon (Who would have thought I’d run 13.1 miles for fun?). They knew how important this sport was to me. They saw how it affected me and how my life had changed with this simple addition to my routine.
Research has also shown that exercise has a positive impact on those struggling with mental health issues. The effects of exercise can aid in the alleviation of long-term depression by enhancing the action of endorphins. Psychologically, exercise can act as a mood enhancer by providing meaningful activity and a sense of accomplishment to someone who is struggling with depression and anxiety.
And that’s what this race was all about: inviting our community to take an active role in their lives, their recovery, and their health. We asked people to share why they ran and what they would be running for. The response we received was incredible:
“To let others know it’s going to be OK.”
“For the possibility of recovery.”
“For health and fitness and fun.”
“In remembrance of someone I’ve lost.”
“For joy and happiness.”
Nearly 600 runners signed up to join us in Satellite Beach, FL on April 20, 2013. We were met by members of the local running community, long-time supporters, friends, family, and even some folks all the way from Boston, MA, Little Rock, AR, and Fayetteville, TN. We saw an outpouring of generosity through donations, sponsorships, volunteers, and general support.
As the Race Director, my heart was overwhelmed as two of the things I love most came together in a very special way. Many of our staff ran their first 5K that day (and we learned some of them are FAST). Others on staff were also inspired by the people who stopped by our booths to share why they were there, and many of us could be found cheering as runners crossed the finish line. We all came together, in our own way, to run for it.
Even if you weren’t able to make it to the Run For It 5K here in Florida, I still encourage you to run. Run for yourself. Run for hope, and love, and recovery. Run for inspiration and run for purpose. Run to find yourself and run for fun. Take a step toward healing, a step toward growth.
You are worth each step.