Alright, it's time for something different on this blog! I think it's time for all of us to play on the same team!
As my life is finally starting up again, I’ve started working out a lot more. And since I was a small child, I have always been a runner. Sprinting, cross country, track, you name it... But I previously mentioned on Facebook, that after my serious seizure in December of 2014, I have been unable to run. About 30 paces in, I get a stitch in my side. This is no big deal, of course, but this stitch refuses to leave. It was so painful that as I attempted to run through it, the stitch only got worse. Eventually, thinking I needed to man up and own this, I would attempt to run through this stitch no matter the pain, which ended with me doubling over and falling to my knees while screaming in pain on a local sidewalk. Truly a special moment for me...
I asked you on Facebook what my problem was, and you said I needed more water, less water, needed to stretch more, start with shorter distances. I’ve tried ALL of it and I hate to admit, this stitch is yet to go away. In fact, I had to find a new workout routine so I started swimming. But swimming isn’t the same. I so desperately want to run again.
So guess what I just learned?! On May 28th of this year, the Hope Network offers a 1 in 5 Marathon Relay for the sake of those suffering from mental health issues. It’s a full marathon race here in Grand Rapids that is broken up into 5 separate parts. 4 runners each handling 5 miles (totaling 20 miles), then the last runner who is dedicated to run the hardest leg, 6.2 miles over rough and uphill terrain to finish the race. This last runner, with the extra 1.2 miles tacked on, is representative of the fact that 1 in 5 of us are dealing with intense mental issues.
In 2012 I visited a mental health doctor at Pine Rest who, after testing me for an entire day, gave me a frightening response about the tumor in my brain and its effect on my everyday lifestyle. I hate to admit this, but the news was so bad it sent me into a depression, a mental illness. This story will be included in my book, but I have also included that short portion of that story here to be downloaded at the end of this post.
There are so many marathons representing so many things, but this one is the first to tackle mental health, a serious issue that affects, literally, all of us. We are all too aware of the shootings, the suicides, and the illnesses happening across our country that all point back to one single issue: mental health. This race is a beautiful analogy to what our society is going through and I was so moved by this concept that I had to get involved.
I figured this race is as good as anything to blossom back into society this Spring. I will keep trying to run, but should my current situation not change due to this stitch, I will be participating through walking with my pregnant wife, Lori. We will walk the 1.5 miles at this event (another available option) to celebrate what it means to be truly set free from mental suffering.
So what does this mean for you?
I have decided to sponsor as many teams as we can to enter this race! I will pay the race fee. I will provide jerseys for our teams. I will provide The Sparrows cold-pressed juice and water for rehydration after the race. And again, it's not about winning or competing, it's about participating. I hate to admit it, but I've never participated in any type of marathon (despite the fact that my wife has run many, as well as a half marathon while pregnant with Viola). I want to heavily contribute to this issue because I am far too aware of what it means to suffer from mental issues.
I want to run for you; you who suffered PTSD in the war and cry when you consider the fact that the military has over 23 suicides per day due to mental trauma. You who were abused as a child but can’t stomach the words to explain it to a friend or a counselor. You who grew up suffering from mental issues due to the kids who traumatized you in school. You whose mind feels broken due to diseases like mine.
Here I am once again, jumping, in order to invite you to this honest, vulnerable, and long race. Who will run with me? Who will run either the 5 miles or the 6.2 miles, standing up for those who are mentally broken. This is such a massive issue and I’m so proud that the Hope Network is willing to stand up for these people. I know that in order for all us to move forward, we need everyone to get involved. I am positive your involvement with me is how I survived my past 5-6 years. You were my runners!
Please, email me if you are as excited as I am! There is still time to get in shape and dedicate yourself to running this race on behalf of the 1 in 5 who desperately needs you to stand up on their behalf. Let me know if you are willing to run and I'll get you set up with your marathon team. I'll get as many different colors of jerseys as we need based on how many teams we can put together. And I am so excited to announce our teams will all race under the name: “Team 55 Zebra,” my temporary name I received after my initial seizure that introduced me to my brain tumor nearly seven years ago.
Help me spread the word to recruit as many runners as we can! And if you are a local business, consider helping me fund this! Your company name and image can be printed on the back of the jersey. Or maybe your company wants to gather 5 people together and join us as their own team!
I am inviting you to run alongside me in order to set all of us free from depression and mental illness!