May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This month I am dedicating my running to raising awareness about mental illness and suicide. I hope that talking about it and running for it helps to break the stigma surrounding it. The month started on the right foot with me committing to running or walking at least one mile a day this month for the Still I Run streak. Still I Run is a group of runners raising awareness about mental health. The official logo for Still I Run replaces the “I” with a “;” representing an unfinished sentence. This is a nod to suicide prevention, stating that your story isn’t over. This is a cause that I feel so very passionate about, having spent a lot of time in the mental health field as a provider and a patient and having many close friends and family with various mental health disorders. I’ve also lost two classmates to suicide and have many more friends that have considered suicide that fortunately decided that their stories weren’t over yet.
MOM stands for “Mind Over Matter” which is another organization raising awareness for mental health and suicide prevention. The founders of MOM lost their own mother to suicide in 2005. The race is traditionally held the weekend before mothers day, close to the anniversary of her passing. This year’s race was the 13th running and was my third time running the race.
The first time I ran the MOM Race was back in 2012, and it was a comeback race for me. I was working at an eating disorder and substance abuse recovery center at the time and asked a group of my coworkers to join me in running or walking this race. I had started running in 2008 when I ran 3 5ks, and then had not run a race since. In 2012 I was getting back into running and wanted to do another race, so this race was the perfect opportunity. I finished in 41:40, a far cry from the last 5k I had done 4 years earlier at 35:22. The next time I ran MOM was the following year and I finished in 40:23. This year I knew I would get a course PR, but I wasn’t planning on anything super fast after just coming off marathon training and right into training for another half marathon.
I ran this year’s race with my “Sole Sister” Paula, who had also run the race before. We wanted to get a longer run in, so we got to the race early and ran a little over 3 miles before the race started. The little park that hosts the race every year was packed with people and positive energy. We made our way to the start line and reminded ourselves that this might be a rough one, because it was a warm, sunny day, and we had already run some miles before hand. We took off after the air horn and it wasn’t long before I was feeling the heat. I wasn’t quiet about complaining about it, either! But the signs along the race course about mental health and suicide statistics and the support of my best friend pushed me through. Any time I felt like I wanted to stop I just thought, “Nope. Paula’s still running. I’m going to keep running.” Running is such a mental game, isn’t it?
The best and worst part of the race is the huge hill that you run down at the beginning of the race and then back up at the end of the race. Paula and I were dreading this hill but we reminded ourselves that the last time her and I had run this race we hadn’t yet experienced the infamous Bradley Hills of the Crim course. So we were mentally preparing ourselves and telling ourselves that this hill was NOTHING compared to that. And it worked! We actually ended up running up most of it and then our last walk interval of the race started just before it flattened out. We took our little break and then cruised to the finish line. Our official finish time was 36:05, which for both of us is much slower than we are actually capable of, but again – we ran more than 3 miles before the race, Paula is coming back from an injury, and I’m in the midst of longer distance training. We improved our time from the last 5k that we did together and I ended up with a course PR, so overall we were so happy!
As I am writing this blog, I realized that this race was my 40th 5k and my 65th race. That is absolutely incredible! I cannot believe sometimes that I have run that much, that I have run that far. The racing miles are just part of the journey – there are hundreds an thousands more miles put in as part of the training for these races. Running has truly helped me in so many ways. Not only has it helped me to lose 18.5lbs (at one point I was down 28.1lbs but regain is real), but it has helped me to clear my head on many occasions, given me a reason to wake up in the morning, and given me a group of friends – a community – nothing like anything I’ve ever had before. I am so glad that I am still running!