Category Archives: Mental Health

Week 13 Chicago Marathon

Here is content from two posts I shared on Facebook this week.

You. Are. Not. Alone.

Simple words. So hard to believe when struggling.

My mom surprised me with shoe tags before I ran the Boston Marathon. I’ve bought them for each marathon since. Here are my tags for this year’s Chicago Marathon when I run on the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention team on October 7th (6 weeks away – yikes!!).

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I am not alone. It’s a great reminder for me. You don’t how I’m doing today. How I’m really doing. You only know what I share. And even that is only if you are paying attention or watching out for me. You don’t know what worries and anxieties I have about tomorrow and beyond. You don’t know what I can’t let go of from the past. You don’t know what struggles and challenges I face today. What makes me want to stay in bed but won’t let me sleep. What may seem small to you but seems insurmountable to me. Maybe today was a low point and I hid it well. Maybe I struggle in silence not sure if others will listen, not sure if things will get better. These shoe tags remind me that I’m not in anything alone, even when solutions and steps forward aren’t clear. That there is hope for tomorrow. The same goes for you. You are not alone. You are never alone.

I’m also not alone in the steps and training I take towards the Chicago Marathon. I’m not alone in my highs. I’m not alone when I raise awareness and share my story. I’m not alone when I worry about all of those who may be struggling. If I will say the right thing and provide enough support to those who need it. If I’ll even notice when others need help. I’m not alone in providing this support to others and worrying if I’ve done enough. I’m not alone when I reach out, listen, do my best, and just try to be there for others. I’m not alone when I fight the stigma of mental health issues and suicide. I’m not alone when I strive to get better about being accepting of others and what they may be going through, especially when I don’t understand. Thank YOU for being part of this journey with me. WE are saving lives. WE are never alone.

Six weeks to go – I’d love your support and DONATION.

A few days ago I ran just over 21 miles while training for the AFSP (Suicide Prevention) team for the Chicago Marathon. It felt great but my run seemed crazy at times – peacocks crossed my path (true), a turkey flew at me (true – got spooked by a dog and strollers after I took my pic), and I saw a flock of flamingos (sort of true). The other craziness from this week is that I’m back in 1st place (for raising awareness & saving lives!) on the AFSP team out of 112 people. Woohoo! Thank you all! It is amazing to have so many people sharing their stories and showing their support. I’d love your help getting to 6K as my next milestone! Thank you all – WE are saving lives.

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https://afsp.donordrive.com/participant/Dave-Thompson #RaceAFSP

Week 11 Chicago Marathon

This is a test…a bit exaggerated, maybe a bit of awkward fun (at my expense), but please read to hopefully learn a bit more about how we react to others who may be struggling.

I’m in Week 11 (of 18) while training on the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention team for the Chicago Marathon. Training and raising awareness for this important cause are going well (keep those DONATIONS coming!).

But I have a struggle.

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A marathon is 26.2 miles. Anywhere from 1500 – 2000 steps per mile. ~50,000 opportunities for my shirt to rub against certain parts of my body.

Seriously.

That’s my struggle.

Every step can rub.

If it’s super hot or raining it’s even worse.

It’s distracting.

It’s frustrating.

That shower after running makes me want to scream!

Ok…PAUSE and think for a few seconds. What’s your reaction to hearing this? What thoughts went through your brain?

Did you judge?

Think I brought this on myself by running in the first place?

Think I should get over it?

Think it’s not that bad?

Think I should be stronger?

Did you feel awkward and not know what to say? Maybe wish I wasn’t sharing on this topic?

Think that you’ve been through worse so why should I complain?

I’m in no way trying to diminish the reality of mental health struggles…but even for this tiny example think about how you react and process hearing about others who are struggling. Who cares what the struggle is. Who cares how big or small you perceive the challenge. Who cares if you feel awkward and aren’t sure how to react.

We need to work through our own judgments and discomfort to be there for others. It’s not our job to judge. Who knows when something that seems small can spiral into larger issues.

Many of the reactions I listed are in 10 Things Not to Say to Someone With Depression. Be there for those around you. Listen. Let go of your judgment. Let them know that they are not alone. Sometimes all they need is someone to just be there.

If you are struggling, know that it is critical that you share with others. Know that you are not alone. Find someone who will listen. Sometimes small daily steps can help (e.g., meditation, exercise) and other times we need professional help. Share what’s going on and we’ll find a way to get through it.

I’d love your support as we NIP suicide in the bud! ;) Click here to DONATE. WE are saving lives.

And…just so you don’t lose sleep worrying about me…my new favorite running accoutrement is NipStrips. I’m saved. Problem solved. And I love the guarantee on this fantastic product that has made all the difference…if your nips aren’t fully satisfied…

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And just a few quick updates on my running progress. Week 11 and I’m still running strong. Thank you Jen for planning another long route! It is amazing that we can run 20 miles and very soon after be able to eat and grab a drink, and not be sore in the days afterwards. So what’s the difference in just running 6 more miles on race day??? I hope NOTHING this year!

The weather has been fun. Even when I get up early to run it seems I’m facing high humidity and dew points. I haven’t looked yet to see what average temps are for the Chicago Marathon. A nice chilly day in the 50s or 60s would be great!

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I ran almost 20 miles for my long run this week while Minnesota had poor air quality alerts. They suggested that you stay indoors and limit physical activity. Uh…hard to do when I have a training plan and have committed to run for a cause I believe in.

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The sun and sky were hazy cool in the morning.

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Despite some higher temps and poor air quality we ran steady regardless of any changes in elevation!

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Thanks again for your support. WE are saving lives!

Week 8 Chicago Marathon Update

My first Chicago Marathon post! I finally created a spreadsheet to track my training miles for the Chicago Marathon (Oct 7, 2018) on the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention team. Training plans are supposed to be 18 weeks, but apparently I’m now in Week 8 of training – yikes! The good news is I only have to focus on training for 10 weeks now (but also only that much time to fund-raise for AFSP while fighting stigma and raising awareness for all those facing mental health challenges)!!! Not to worry, I’ve been running…just not with a plan.

I looked for some pictures to prove that I’ve still been running…but most of my pictures showed me eating or sitting and watching kid’s sports. Ruh-roh! I have recent runs of 15 and 17 miles (thanks Jen for being a great running partner!), so I’m technically over halfway to a full marathon (26.2 miles), but I also love the advice that the race isn’t half over until mile 20!

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I broke out my FREE Brooks shoes that I got last year while running the 21st mile of the Twin Cities marathon faster than my average pace of the first 20 miles. That was such a great challenge for me. I love the quote in the shoebox, “These shoes are overflowing with possibilities. Show them the ropes. Pound the pavement. Tromp some trails. Wow them. Thrill them. Give them adventure. Run happy.” Amen! That’s how I want to run. Our job is to thrill our shoes and give them adventure – ha! Don’t let your shoes down!

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Some of my miles were in Rochester, Indiana a month or so ago while attending a wedding and seeing lots of family. I love all the different sidewalks and paths. I have great memories of biking with my grandpa in many of these same areas way back when as a kid. Running frees my brain. It makes me focus on the world around me. It is great therapy. Get out there – pause and notice the world (and people!) around you.

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I also did some miles in Colorado a few weeks ago. After I saw the sign below I ran the whole way screaming and waving my arms. No way did I want to be the one to accidentally feed the coyotes!

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I should be happy that I’m 4th in fundraising on the AFSP team out of 110 people. That’s a great spot to be in. I should be happy for the people ahead of me. Ok, I am. But I’ll be happier when I’m ahead of them!!! My dream from earlier this year is to finish in the Top 3 in fundraising (even that doesn’t feel right – I want to be #1!!!). Here are recent standings:

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Let’s get me to the #1 spot and really raise some money and awareness as we support all of those facing mental health issues. I increased my goal to $6000 – I know WE can do that. Click here to DONATE. Spread the word. Help raise awareness. Help fight stigma. Help educate others. We are all in this together. Be there for those around you. WE are saving lives. Thank you!

The Lesson a Giant Pumpkin Can Teach Us About Depression

I lost my sister, Katherine, at the age of 37, to suicide on March 26, 2012. I didn’t think about her every day before she died. I think about her every day now. Yep, nearly four years later – every single day. Who should you be thinking about every day? Take a few deep breaths…think about those people now. Repeat each day!

It’s amazing the lessons and reminders we get all around us when we find a moment to pause and reflect. My sister, Katherine, could brighten any room with her smile and laughter. She smiled until the end – keeping a brave face and hiding her struggles. So many of us were not aware of the signs of mental illness, depression, and anxiety, and how very real the possibility of a suicide could be.

Bear with me. We grew a giant pumpkin in our yard last year.

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In December it snowed, and I had visions of sprinkling the pumpkin with birdseed all winter long to watch birds and squirrels have fun with it.

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But then it warmed up a bit, and the pumpkin started to sag. As weird as this may sound, it was about this time that I had this random thought that my sister kept right on smiling and putting on a show that everything was ok, even though she was feeling bad. The pumpkin kept right on smiling. Every time I saw the smile on the pumpkin I thought of Katherine.

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I have many random thoughts, some I shoo away, some come back to me often, and this thought kept coming back to me. No matter how bad that pumpkin must have been feeling, that darn smile wouldn’t go away. And I thought of the struggles that are hidden every day by so many people.

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I kept thinking of this connection to my sister and complications associated with depression and the stigma of mental illness…still smiling.

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Of course. Still smiling. “I’m fine” said the pumpkin.

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I thought about the pumpkin while buried under snow and frequent sub-zero temperatures for over two months. The pumpkin could be seen again in March…still smiling. “You ok?”, “I’m ok, don’t worry about me. Check out my smile.” The smile is there, but the pumpkin is not ok.

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We had so much fun growing this pumpkin, showing it off to people, wondering how big it would get, etc, etc, etc, but I never ever would have thought the more the pumpkin rotted away, the more I would feel this connection.

So many people face struggles every day. They try to hide it from the world. They try to hide it from themselves, and they don’t share everything with their loved ones. They don’t know or see any way to get better. The rest of us don’t know what to look for, or think this will pass, or don’t pause long enough to look past the smile.

We cared for our pumpkin and watched it every day when it was growing and healthy.

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Maybe it felt heaviness from us.

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Being pushed or pulled in too many directions.

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Feelings of pressure.

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Or of emptiness.

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That it wasn’t good enough.

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Or was scared.

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But that darn pumpkin kept smiling through it all. Check in on those around you – listen to them. REALLY listen to them. Notice their changes in behavior and understand how very real suicide can be. If in doubt, get professional help. Mental illness, depression, anxiety, etc – they are so tough to talk about and share. You feel judged. You feel like you won’t get better. You feel helpless. With suicide you are fighting to live and die at the same time. It’s not that people in this situation don’t want to face the world and get better, they just don’t know how and don’t see a way out. Smiling puts people at ease and provides some escape from facing your reality and having to share the uncertainty that you have. Smiling on the outside, while caving in from all directions.

That’s what I learned from our giant pumpkin last year. It’s important for all of us to smile, but please be open and share how you’re doing with others. If you’re struggling then please let someone know. If you’re concerned about someone, don’t keep that to yourself. Reach out to them. Last year I wouldn’t have done this, but recently I noticed someone’s post on Facebook and sent them a private message, “…checking in to make sure you have people to talk to and have a good support network.” Sometimes that’s enough to get people talking. And to get a conversation started. But we have to pause long enough to make it happen. Peace in the week ahead.

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CLICK HERE to support this cause and help me save lives.

As always, I can’t thank you all enough for reading these messages, being there for those around you, and helping fight the stigma of suicide and mental illness. WE are saving lives. Thank you.

Week 13 Training Update

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Like my new shirt?

If you hit your initial fund-raising goal in CrowdRise they send you a shirt. I chose this one over “Decent Human” :)

Want to feel better? Happier? Healthier? Donating to my cause of suicide prevention and fighting the stigma of suicide and mental illness, will do all those (I’ll let you google ‘donating and happiness’ on your own).

Want to fight depression? Want to fight YOUR depression? Same answer – donate to my cause :) Don’t believe me? You just said you wanted to be happier, healthier, etc – how’s not donating to me treating you ;) Heh heh. It’s against my nature to always be asking for donations, but guess what? It works. No guilt here (I’m learning). WE are saving lives. A simple donation will fight depression in so many ways. Other small steps referenced in this article that we can all do each day to impact our well-being:

  • Be kind to others
  • Express gratitude
  • Think optimistically
  • Meditate on the good things in life

Today’s the day. Pick one of those. Go easy on yourself. Have fun with them. Make connections. Share these easy tips with others. Save lives.

Training continues to go well. Crazy when 13 miles now is a “short week”. What Yogi Berra said about baseball definitely applies to my training, “…is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical.” It’s crazy to think that I only have five weeks of training left, and only two more long runs (a 19 mile run, and a 20 mile run, and then supposedly I’ll be ready). The closer the race gets (< 50 days!) the more questions I get from people. I love the energy, excitement and support around this. Thank you everyone for your thoughts and encouragement.

I also watched a movie this past week, Spirit of the Marathon. It got my adrenaline pumping several times as it followed six runners preparing for the Chicago Marathon. A great quote from the movie was from John Bingham, who said:

“So most of us are out there for the same reason, right? We just want to have a good time. You paid for that course to be open as long as it’s going to be open. And the faster you run, the less value you’re getting for your marathon dollar. So the wise marathon consumer is going to be out there as long as we can…you do not want to rush that experience.”

I love that. I don’t want to rush my marathon experience. If you donated to my cause and have expectations that I’m going to run fast…well…you may want to try getting your money back from me? Ha – good luck with that!

It’s been a great past two weeks in terms of support and awareness. I’m over $12,000 thanks to all of your support – only $7,500 left to hit my next target of $20,000! A highlight is that I was the “Top Story” in the Rochester Sentinel (Rochester, Indiana) on March 2nd (it costs a minimum of $4.50 to see that article – sorry). Rochester (“City of Friendship and Pride”) is the town that my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc are from and/or live in still. It holds a special place in my heart and I’m thrilled to make the news there. My first marathon newspaper story!

And did I mention that I got a free t-shirt :)

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As always, I can’t thank you all enough for reading these messages, being there for those around you, and helping fight the stigma of suicide and mental illness. WE are saving lives. Thank you.

Week 11 Training Update

Here’s a mix of fun and sobering facts. Reflect. Enjoy. Learn. Grow. Share. Make a difference. You’ll find my week 11 training updates and pictures after the data.

Number Description
121 million ~# of people in world who suffer from depression (Healthline)
42,000 ~# of people who committed suicide in the U.S. in 2015 (AFSP)
31,000 # gallons of sweat that 26,000 people running the Boston Marathon could produce (ick) (Boston Marathon)
27,167 # of people who started the 2015 Boston Marathon (BAA)
26,598 # of people who finished the 2015 Boston Marathon (BAA)
10,000 # of lives I pledged to touch while raising awareness to suicide prevention
500 # of suicide attempts in the U.S. in the time it takes ME to run the Boston Marathon
126 # of people who have donated to help me save lives so far (THANK YOU!)
117 ~# of people who die by suicide each day (AFSP)
53 # of miles I ran in 8 days last week
37 age of my sister, Katherine, when she died of suicide
26.2 # of miles in a marathon
21 marathon mile marker when many runners may hit “the wall”
20.5 Boston marathon mile marker when you hit “Heartbreak Hill”
20 # of suicides in the U.S. in the time it takes ME to run the Boston Marathon
11 # of people over age 80 who started the Boston Marathon in 2015 (BAA)
11 # of people over age 80 who finished the Boston Marathon in 2015 (BAA)
1 # of people that it takes to MAKE A DIFFERENCE (you!)

In the span of eight days I did a 17-mile run, 5-mile, 8-mile with seven full hills, 5-mile, and an 18-mile run. And I took two naps :) The 17-mile run was dark, below zero, windy and snowing. Blah. The 18-mile run a week later was supposed to hit 50 degrees but instead I ran early in the day so I didn’t see anything above 35F (but it was the first time I only wore two shirts & only one pair of gloves, in a very long time!). It rained the day before so the entire 18-miles was an adventure in not trusting any of my steps. I didn’t fall but I had many, many, many slips and near misses. This was the closest I’ve come to quitting a run this year – not because I was tired, but because it was so slippery EVERYWHERE. My picture below doesn’t do it justice. Regardless, the 18 miles felt really good. Could I do another 8 miles? Yep…uh, maybe…I’d at least give it a shot now :)

Here’s my 17-mile run.

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And here’s my 18-mile run just a week later. Weather is getting nice. Crazy it is February with these high temps (it’s all a matter of perspective).

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Ice. Ice. And more ice on my 18 mile run. When it looked dry it was ice. When it looked wet it was ice. When it looked icy it was ice. I’ll soon find out what muscles I was using to stabilize – hope those muscles are the same ones that will get me through Boston!

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Here’s data from my “7 full hills” day. My phone still hasn’t quite figured out where I am on the hills. The red line should be going between 806 elevation up to 933 elevation each time. Honest – I run all the way down – I’d only be cheating myself ;) And the blue line…well, let’s just say I’m not quite as fast going up as I am going down. And does this picture look like 50F and sunny to you? Me neither.

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As of this post I’m at $11,040. The support I’ve received so far has been absolutely AMAZING!!! I am so touched and blessed to get this support and honor my sister’s life. WE are saving lives!!! YOU can still help with a donation by clicking here. I’m chasing that NEXT $10,000!

As always, I can’t thank you all enough for reading these messages, being there for those around you, and helping fight the stigma of suicide and mental illness. WE are saving lives. Thank you.

Week 10 Training Update

The top questions I’ve been getting lately are something along the lines of, “You’re running all of your training miles outside? What?!?!? Why???

In my original Giving Tuesday message, holiday letter, and CrowdRise donation page, I pledged,

“to run all 500+ training miles outdoors in Minnesota to give me continued awareness to the daily struggles that so many people face.”

I don’t get to pick and choose the days that have good weather, whether or not I want hills scheduled in my training plan (I did 12 half-hills today!), or how my body feels. I think about the struggles that others face on every single run. This gives me strength. Focus. Determination. Pride. A sense of purpose. I give thanks that I do have control over how I feel. I give thanks that I’m healthy enough to run. I give thanks for all of the support that I’ve received on my mission to create awareness to prevent suicide and fight the stigma of mental illness. I don’t take any of this for granted.

This means I run while 10″ of snow are coming down…

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This means I run when cities and citizens don’t clear their sidewalks (I’d like to dedicate my calf muscles and ankle strength to these two pics – this frozen, crusty, icy fun is what I face on every run)…

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A great friend of mine posted today on Facebook, “Davey! I ran in 19/feels-like-5 degree weather just now in solidarity. I only cursed your name a couple of times ;) Cheers, buddy.” How cool is that? So powerful. We are all in this crazy race through life together.

I ask you, what do you have control over? What exciting but scary challenge can you face today or tomorrow? Pause. Think about it. Seriously – right now – think about it. What can you do? It may be just getting out of bed in the morning. It may be telling someone that you’re struggling. Or running outside in crazy cold weather in solidarity with me. Or checking in on someone and letting them know you’re there to listen. Or taking the first steps toward a new dream. Whatever it is – find something that excites and scares you tomorrow – and take a step to start making it happen.

What’s the easiest way you earned $100 in a bar? Wait – don’t answer that. Thank you to a coworker for hearing my story over beers and handing me $100 without hesitation – I turned the money in, I promise. If you had to pick a 39F degree day with 20+ mph winds & snow, or sub-zero the next few days, which do you choose? My 13 mile run was Sunday – so I chose the wind and blowing snow. I think Ben Franklin’s expression says all you need to know about that decision. This was also my second run using a metronome. Yep, for 2 hours I heard beep-beep-beep (every time I put down my left foot). Working on my cadence is my next step (ha, step) towards making my back woes go away.

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I love this pic. Out for my run over lunch and a whole group had shovels and hockey sticks. They cleared the snow away and played some boot hockey. Also went old school with my Prairie Dog hat.

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And finally…look what else I got (don’t be distracted by the ice castles in the background)? Yep – it’s official. Accepted. I’m in “The Boston”.

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As of this post I’m at $9,795. So close to $10,000 – I can’t wait to see who will push me over that goal (YOU can donate by clicking here to make it happen). And then let’s chase the next $10,000!

As always, I can’t thank you all enough for reading these messages, being there for those around you, and helping me fight the stigma of suicide and mental illness. WE are saving lives. Thank you.

Week 8 Training Update

THANK YOU for all of the support, donations and sharing my message. WE are saving lives! Week 8 Update: I’m over $9,000 in fund-raising and my long run was 15-miles!

My 10-mile run last week (Week 7) was sponsored by Prednisone (it was only 7 days – and I’m off it now). I ran fast (for me), I ran without pain, I felt great, my head was clear, my outlook was so positive. I hadn’t run and felt like this in over a month. I didn’t realize how really bad I’ve been feeling the past month, and how much my back pain had been getting me down. It took a good day to make me realize how bad I’ve been feeling. I kept telling people all was well. I kept going through the motions. But until I saw a doctor last week and got some medication, I didn’t realize how much this was impacting my life and those around me.

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It hit me on that run how ironic it is that I’m telling people to share what’s going on in their lives, yet I’ve been running in pain and getting down on myself for a month and haven’t shared it with that many people. Is it because I didn’t want to burden others? I didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for me, or judge me for not being tough enough to handle either the physical demands or the stress of prepping for “The Boston”? Because I don’t yet know what’s wrong with my back and whether I would be able to pull through this, or that I didn’t want to deal with going on medication and wondering about the side effects? Or is it because I didn’t realize how much this was really impacting me, and I was in denial?

This is hopefully a relatively minor back issue, but it completely changed my outlook and attitude each day. People struggling with mental health issues go through similar patterns and downward spirals all the time. These spirals build and build on each other, making it hard to ever think you can escape it. I was getting down on myself because my dream was in jeopardy, and I couldn’t stick to my plan. I felt like I could be letting myself and other people down. I had physical pains that plagued me throughout each day (and night), but the mental aspects, uncertainty and doubt were increasing all the time, and I wasn’t realizing it.

We don’t know how depression starts. It’s a combination of many things, but it can be triggered and worsened by downward spirals that get bigger and bigger and feed on themselves. The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time, by Alex Korb, PhD, is a great book that I think would benefit everyone. It gives great awareness to the importance of starting upward spirals in our lives, to escape downward spirals “pulling you into a vortex of sadness, fatigue, and apathy”. Small things that spiral upward each day, reinforce good patterns in the brain. Chapters in this book include: exercising your brain (e.g., physical exercise – but call it “having fun being active” instead!); setting goals (what’s even one small, positive step you can take today?); making decisions; giving your brain a rest (sleep!); and developing positive habits (e.g., remember positive events that happen in your life). These are often simple steps, and this book does a great job giving clear examples, while explaining the positive impact in our brains.

Medication helped me get through my small hurdle, but even seven days on medication gave me side effects that impacted my personality. I also started sleeping more and focusing on proper exercise, but what really helped me first get help was talking with a few friends that I knew were listening to me. Be there for those around every day – it can make all the difference.

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I also continued my hill training this week. Although the graph doesn’t accurately show it (red line), I ran all the way to the bottom of this hill many times. What I love is that my pace (blue line) doesn’t even hint at me running up and down hills. What hills? Where? Heh heh – I can only hope Boston will feel the same :)

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Ready to make a donation. Here you go: https://www.crowdrise.com/samaritansboston2016/fundraiser/davethompson

Be there for others. Listen. Don’t judge. Have an amazing week!

Week 6 Training Update

“If there were no January, we might just take July for granted. Weather is a metaphor for life. Pain and suffering aren’t optional. Power through the storms and bitter setbacks – there’s always another warm front up ahead.” -Paul Douglas, January 17, 2016, Star Tribune weather page

Exactly. And as I prepare for each run in bitterly cold weather, I think about the struggles that so many people face every day. And then I start taking steps. One foot after another.

About 20 years ago I was a consultant in Chicago with KPMG Peat Marwick. I flew up to work at a client site 40 minutes north of Minneapolis, in Anoka. It was cold. Brutally cold. Below-zero-all-week cold. The hotel had an agreement with a fitness center down the road and would drive you there in a shuttle. I wanted to workout so I asked for the shuttle. How cold was it? So cold that the hotel staff gave ME the keys to the hotel shuttle and said I should drive myself. Yep. True story. Lucky for this hotel, the one guy from Chicago they chose to give keys to their shuttle was me. That’s when you know it is cold in Minnesota.

Week 6 of training. 120 miles behind me. Almost 90 days until the Boston Marathon. I’ve incredibly received over $8,000 in donations towards saving lives, preventing suicide, and fighting stigma. I’m touched every day by the generosity of so many. WE are saving lives. I can’t thank you all enough, and I hope that you continue to share my story and blog posts with those you care about.

This is what I wear for JUST ONE winter run. Crazy! I’m spending as much time doing laundry as I am running :)

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Do you have 4 minutes right now? Here’s a great, short video: What is depression?. A few, quick takeaways that are so important for all of us to understand:

  • “Depression has physical manifestations inside the brain”
  • “It takes the average person suffering with a mental illness over ten years to ask for help
  • “Depression is a medical condition, just like asthma or diabetes”
  • Open conversations about mental illness help erode stigma

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In the little weather picture can you feel the giant comic sun and beautiful hot air balloon warming you up? Yah, me neither. Squint and look at the scenery in the background of the photo just above the hot air balloon. See them? Look again and scroll down for a zoomed in view.

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Here’s the zoomed in view. It was a cold day, and I decided to jog through a nature preserve area that I’d never gone through before. As I rounded the corner I saw four deer. I watched them for a minute and took about fifty selfies (before my hand froze) trying to get both them and me in focus. Oh well, this was the best I could do.

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And a picture with a bit more focus…(once we take steps, even on bitterly cold days, we will be amazed by the wonder and surprises in life, especially as we go down new paths)…

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Long runs on weekends with the weather lately has kept things interesting. Sunday is my “long run” day (14 miles this week for my long run). Seriously, HIGH of -7F (not factoring in the wind yet)??? Brrrr!

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I ran part way across a frozen lake past a few ice houses, on my jog. But when I took out my phone it froze (literally), so I couldn’t take pictures. MapMyRun froze & stopped working then – so it showed a straight-shot home, which made it kind of fun, because it did show me running across the lake, but it also showed me running completely through yards and houses too! :)

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Thanks for reading. Have an amazing week.

Week 4 Training Update

Exactly one month ago I started my suicide and mental health awareness campaign as I train for the 2016 Boston Marathon. Today I passed $7,000!!! Wow! Incredible. Powerful. Touching. I can’t thank everyone enough for all of the support in your messages, donations, and helping share this message, as we ALL save lives.

Speaking of all the help I’ve been getting. My parents were just in town and this was my dad’s idea of how he could help me train harder.
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And here’s how I improved on his idea…
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Week 4 is done! Only 14 weeks of training to go! My back started hurting the week before Christmas (in a way that it never has before). I took it easy a few days, but I wasn’t sure if running was helping or hurting it, so…I went for an 8-mile run. Not a good idea. After that I couldn’t reach to touch my toes for days (with my legs bent even!). Nothing was helping so I decided to really rest. Tough decision when I’m supposed to be running 6 days a week. Tough decision for anyone who knows how rarely I sit still. Here were my sad stats for that week (one very slow run in seven days – yikes):

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I learned last year that the mental aspects of training for a marathon can be even more challenging than the physical demands on your body. Cutting an 18-week training plan to 17-weeks, plus not knowing when/if my back will heal, was driving me crazy. Doubts creep in. How long do I rest? Do I push it? What if I can’t do any long runs? Will I be ready for Boston? And it goes on and on. But I trust the journey. I listen to my body. While I was stretching/rolling more I started meditating each day to calm my mind. I eased back into training and slowed down my runs. I decided to only run 5 days a week going forward (back to Hal Higdon Novice 2 again). Doubts, struggles, stories we tell ourselves…they all can start downward spirals like I mentioned in my holiday letter this year. Here’s an excerpt from what I mailed out, listing some things I learned this year:

If you learn just one thing while reading this letter then I have succeeded. Neuroscience continues to advance, and many great books show that small daily changes can rewire your brain (e.g., The Upward Spiral, by Alex Korb, PhD and Uncovering Happiness, by Elisha Goldstein). The simplest thing you can do is listen. Listening shows that you care, and can give someone a greater sense of connection and control (especially to someone who doesn’t see other options). Small steps to create positive upward spirals include: mindfulness (practicing “nonjudgmental awareness”; making any decision reduces anxiety); exercise; sleep; long hugs (give someone a lingering hug right now!); breathing (breathe in through your nose while counting to six,  and let it out just as slowly); support networks (downward spirals are more likely when you’re alone; even movies together are a step for someone who doesn’t seem ready to talk); and gratitude (e.g., think of one thing you’re looking forward to each day when you wake up – even if that is just breakfast!).

What else have I learned? Strong support networks from family and friends are critical to get through tough times. Stigma around suicide and mental illness exists everywhere, causing people not to get help, and to feel isolated, judged, and alone. Suicide happens to “normal” families. People who commit suicide don’t want to die, but they don’t see any other way out of their current feeling of hopelessness. Mental illness is a disease like many other diseases. Depression creates physical changes in the brain, but people can get better. We’ll never get the answers we want, and we can’t fix the past, so we must move forward and honor our loved ones by living for today and helping others along the way. If you or someone you know is talking about suicide or exhibiting suicidal tendencies, get appropriate help right away. The Samaritans’ website is a great source for information.

Believe it. Share it.

My oldest daughter, Colleen, joined me on my first day back to running. We had a great 4-mile run, slipping and sliding a bit as we dodged patches of ice under the fresh snow on a beautiful winter day.
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Cool how many different tracks can be found after a new dusting of snow. Not long after this I saw four deer while on my run. I continue to add to my collection of pictures of blurry brown deer-like blobs.
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Thankfully this has still been a relatively mild Minnesota winter so far. Not a lot of snow and not any really cold temps. My new gear is making a huge difference!
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I’m so thankful for the support from those closest to me. It was great to see my parents for several days before they headed back to New Hampshire. We have all been through so much in the past four years, and we get through it all, good & bad, together. The Boston Marathon is a powerful journey for all of this year and helps us feel like we can channel energy and emotion into a great organization that touches so many lives.
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And finally, pictures from my long run in Week 4. It was supposed to be 11 miles, but I realized at mile 10 that I was missing my hood (crazy that I overdressed on a 20F day and ended up having to remove gloves and the hood). I ended up jogging back to find it and then taking a shortcut home, for 12 miles total. Funny how things work out, the last two miles after I lost my hood were the best part of my run. I ran through a wooded area around a lake, got to run through some unplowed paths, and ended up talking to a fellow runner. Plus I got the satisfaction of finding what I lost! :)
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Peace and happiness in the year ahead. Here’s to a great 2016. Happy New Year, and thanks again for all of the support!

If you missed it…I was one of three runners featured in the Samaritan’s December newsletter (scroll down in this article).