“When I first came up with the idea, I couldn’t decide if it was a strike of genius or insanity. Traveling around the United States in a camper van to run 50 Races to raise awareness about mental health was obviously a lofty goal. However, I knew first hand of the stigma surrounding mental health issues. Therefore, I knew someone had to stand up and fight for the voiceless, and that someone might as well be me.”
“Before I go any further, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Nathan Wells, and I’m a 25-year-old marathoner based out of Knoxville, Tennessee. I found running in 2017 after the suggestion of a therapist to “find something that brings me joy and run with it.“ (I obviously took the “run with it” part a bit too literally.) I had landed in therapy after five years of severe depression that led to me taking three separate attempts on my life. It was through that personal experience that I knew exactly what stigmas still existed against mental health… Particularly here in the south.
I began to run on a daily basis and with every trip on the trails, I would feel my life coming back together again. It was honestly remarkable how quickly I began to feel human again. It was as if it took years for me to get to the point that I had reached with depression. However, with therapy intervention and the addition of running to my daily life, it was like Nathan was back. However, I knew there had to be a reason that I had to go through the struggles that I did, and that’s when I realized I had to become a voice for the voiceless.
So, throughout 2018, I began to plan the massive undertaking of #50FORLIFE Mental Health, Depression Awareness, and Suicide Prevention Race Project. There were tons of things that had to be put in place in order for this to work. From selecting the races and state I wanted to visit, finding sponsors, training, finding a van to travel and live in while I was on the run, and not to mention… I had to finally open up to EVERYONE about the struggles I had been going through. It’s not easy opening up about things like that to family and friends, so I won’t pretend this journey has been an easy road. However, don’t let that make it sound like I’ve not enjoyed this adventure, either.”
“As of yesterday, I completed my 10th race of the 50 Races. Races range from 5Ks to Full Marathons, and I’ve reached 57.2 race miles total, thus far. (My goal is to hit 500 by the end of the year. Those miles do not count training miles, though.) The latest race was a virtual 5K that I ran for a fellow mental health awareness organization. When I finished, I found a nice patch of grass to lay down at for a minute. I grabbed my water and my Boost Oxygen to help me catch my breath, and just stared at the sky for a moment. I then quickly became overwhelmed with emotions. Race #10 marked 20% of the project being completed, and while I have many more races to complete… I also know all the obstacles that nearly prevented the first 10 races from even happening. From lots of negative remarks being sent my way about the project, to weather delays, and the van being two months behind on schedule, it just seems like I’ve not been able to catch a break since beginning this journey. However, despite it all, I made it to race #10, and I was beyond proud of myself.
Already, in just a few months of this project, I’ve quickly learned #50FORLIFE, which I thought was to help everyone else who struggles with mental health issues to find the courage to seek help, has actually been a new form of healing for myself. Letting go of the past is great in theory, but really never works. However, when we learn to embrace our past, whether it be traumas or mistakes, real healing can finally begin. I’m not saying I dwell on the things that led me to depression. However I do accept them and knowledge their individual roles in helping me truly find myself.
The remaining journey he’s going to be long, difficult, and costly. However, every time I wake up to an email or find a letter in my mailbox from someone who has been impacted by this cause it gives me hope to keep fighting to see my project through. Plus, it’s great to have amazing supporters like Boost Oxygen who have been giving me a boost of confidence along the way (excuse the pun).”
“So, take a moment, and think of a time you yourself were struggling. Once you have thought of that moment, take a second to think of the kind of person you needed during that difficult time of your life. Now, go out and be that person for someone who is currently in the same place you were. There’s nobody who can become a better advocate for a cause than someone who has been through the struggles themselves. Trust me…you won’t regret the outcome.”
“I began using Boost pretty early on in my running journey. Living around East Tennessee, we have a lot of different elevations due to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Cumberland Plateau. Plus, living between those two higher elevation areas in the valley, pollen just gathers in our area because it basically gets trapped like it’s in a bowl. So, I began researching things to help get my breathing in check, and found Boost. I instantly began seeing improvements in my running performance and energy levels once I added it to my daily run routines. I normally take in an inhalation of Boost immediately before and after a race, but I also keep it with me during the race in case I need an extra Boost on the trail. I also love how it conveniently fits in my hydration pack.”
“Special shout outs to a few of our sponsors and social media partnerships: RacerTrips, Knox Graphics, and A Walk of Elegance Flooring. If you would like to become a sponsor, please email me at 50FORLIFE@mail.com or by sending a DM through my Instagram: @olsourpickle. Sponsors are vital in making this project work, and I am thankful for each and every one of them. Individuals can send supporting donations to my GoFundMe”