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Now he’s finishing triathlons and conquering ultramarathons.As a teenager, I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and found myself in trouble constantly. I started smoking cigarettes and marijuana, and stealing alcohol at a very young age. And by the time I was 15, I had already started using cocaine, LSD, and ecstasy frequently.
Prescription pills took hold of me at a young age and led me into an opiate addiction. At the climax of my addiction, I was homeless and living on the street. I was the guy you would see at a highway exit holding a sign begging people for money. I tried to get off the opiates by going to a methadone clinic and taking methadone (a FDA-approved drug in the opioid family, used to treat opioid use disorder), and wound up more addicted to that drug.
In the clinic, I also met tons of heroin addicts that introduced me to that drug. Being an addict took me to prison and almost took my life several times, and all the relationships in my life were broken as a result. I tried to commit suicide and found myself in psychiatric units, treatment centers, halfway houses, and rehabs frequently.
The worst of my overdoses was the week of February 4th, 2015, where I had a total of three heroin overdoses in one week. I was found unresponsive with a needle in my arm. During one of those overdoses, I had locked myself in a bathroom with my back to the door and feet against the vanity so nobody would be able to open the door. My father, who had been trying to intervene, actually got into my apartment and broke the door to get me out. He gave me CPR and called 911.
The paramedics gave me several doses of Narcan to try and save my life, and I was put on a ventilator in the ICU due to the fluid in my lungs and pneumonia. After a very scary nine days in the ICU, by the grace of God, I woke up.
At this point, I had a decision to make: either run away like a coward or run toward my failures and take responsibility for my life. At this time, my wife was six months pregnant with our first child, so I made the decision to find help at a men’s faith-based recovery center called Lifeline-connect in Urbana, Illinois, that completely changed my life.
Lifeline-connect is a one-year residential program, so I knew I was going to be there for a while. One of my mentors in the program, RJ Eaton, was into fitness and challenged me to get into shape spirituality, mentally, and physically. Up to that point, my lungs were in bad condition. I smoked two packs of cigarettes a day for over a decade.
I had been running off and on since the first time I went to Lifeline-connect in 2009. And after my relapse in 2015, I started running again this time, and at first could barely run a tenth of a mile without stopping because my lungs hurt.
One day while running, someone saw me running in a really old pair of beat up shoes that were falling apart and blessed me with a brand new pair of Saucony shoes, which really encouraged me. A tenth of a mile turned into two and then a half-mile, and with consistency day by day, it wasn’t long until I was running several miles every day.
By the end of my time at Lifeline-connect, I was running five miles a day, five days a week. As I continued on through my recovery, I kept running and fell in love with it.
In 2019, I competed in the Illinois half marathon and remember thinking at the time about how difficult it was to run a half marathon. But following that race, I realized that running was helping me forge mental toughness to stay strong in other areas of my life. Running helped me to have the same mental fortitude to not quit on longer runs, which is the same mental toughness that has helped me not give into temptation in rough times.
Since then, I’ve run three full marathons, one a personal 26.2-mile run, then a 35-mile ultra that wasn’t a sanctioned event. I also set a PR at the Illinois half marathon this past spring, finishing in 1:42, and have also come to love mountain and road cycling.
To keep pushing the bar, I signed up for and completed the Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga this year and finished with a time that I was pleased with accomplishing. I have a goal to summit all 58 14-ers (mountains above 14,000 feet elevation) in Colorado.
Currently, my running schedule is between 25 and 35 miles a week. Every once in a while, I sign up for a 5K, 10K, marathon, or triathlon to keep me motivated because I really enjoy the community of runners/cyclists/triathletes. I’ve actually connected with a number of local athletes who are now friends of mine and I get to meet up with them for runs or rides.
Next on my running goals list is to do a 50-mile ultramarathon, then a 100K run.
Overall, running makes me feel alive and accomplished. It’s one of my personal devotional times where I express my gratitude to my God for keeping me alive. Because of running, today I now have a beautiful life with my three beautiful children: Eden, Amaeya, and Summit. My wife, Maegan, is my biggest cheerleader. She’s my rock who stuck by my side, always encouraging and believing in me. I am so grateful that I get to tuck my three beautiful children in to sleep at night and be their dad. The only thing running didn't prepare me for was raising these three kiddos ages 2, 4, and 6—talk about an endurance event!
A special shout-out to my 2-year-old Siberian husky, Slushy, who has been my running partner over the years. I train with him regularly because he holds me accountable when running. He’s ready to go every day at 5:30 a.m. rain or shine, and he has helped me to be better. We all need a husky in our lives: personally, spirituality, and professionally.
For anyone reading this, I want them to know that no matter what struggle they are going through, there is an opportunity to come out of the fire stronger than before. Sometimes it takes a fire in our lives to clear and burn away all the impurities that were holding us down. Now is the time to get up, lace your shoes, and march forth. If I can do it, anyone can.
These three trips have made my running journey a success:
1. Smile when you run
It helps me to remind myself why I love this.
2. Practice gratitude
When running gets tough, I try to remind myself of how lucky I am to be able to run. I am blessed to have found this path, when others close to me have lost their lives.
3. Run everywhere you travel.
I run everywhere, even on vacation or staying at a friend or family’s house out of state to keep the spirit of adventure alive!(06/19/2022) Views: 100 ⚡AMP