A conversation with Dr. Mark Cucuzzella and Katie Nolan Thompson (shown above, photo credit: Facchino Photography), organizers of Freedom’s Run, on the benefits of challenging yourself to stay healthy.
I see it as healthy for each of us to challenge ourselves every now and then to something where we have a risk of failure. This is what helps us grow. I look at the challenge my colleague Katie Nolan Thompson set for herself this year. Earlier this summer she finished the indescribably difficult Tahoe Rim 100 mile run. When you line up to start with 20,000 feet of climbing left on the course, finishing is not assumed and there are many moments along the way where you can doubt yourself. Katie also just returned from a repeat attempt at summiting Mount Rainier in Washington. Last year the weather turned her back, but this year the conditions were favorable and she persevered. As Katie was just returning from the mountain, I posed a few questions to her:
Mark: Many have suffered in their mental health the last 2 years. How has running helped you?
Katie: Struggling with depression and anxiety, structure is incredibly important for my overall mental health. With so many variables and unknowns, especially now during the pandemic, running is the only thing I can control. No matter how down or depressed I feel, it is the one thing I try to keep consistent. I don’t run particularly fast anymore, I just choose an amount of time to go run and try to stick to that. And understanding no amount of time is too short – a 5 minute run is still better than nothing. There is a balance to that, and it’s something I’ve had to really practice.
Mark: Tell us a little about challenging yourself to something different at the risk of failure.
Katie: The idea of running longer distances seemed really foreign to me up until about seven years ago, when I attempted my first ultra run and failed. I hadn’t trained properly, went out way too fast, and quit halfway through. At first, I attributed it to – well these races just aren’t for me. But after the race, I started to get a bit of a bee in my bonnet; this was definitely something that I could accomplish – I just had to understand training and go in with a different mindset.
Mark: For some the challenge is a 5K, for you it is 100 miles. What is special about the challenge?
Katie: The distance is all relative. My favorite thing about running is its ability to make you go further than you ever thought possible. Your entire scope of mental toughness changes. There are always moments of doubt when you ask “can I really do this?” But as long as you persevere – yes, you can do it. We don’t give ourselves enough credit of what we’re capable of, and running helps unleash that inner warrior.
Participating in the 2021 Freedom’s Run
With this year’s Freedom’s Run, we have lots of levels to set your individual challenge. If you are new to running or walking it could be a 5K or 10K. If you have some experience go for a half marathon or full marathon. You have a little over six weeks to get ready. We challenged ourselves to be pandemic-flexible, with a smaller number of participants, social distancing and mask guidelines, and changes to the courses to avoid crowds. So join us, step outside, and push yourself to take some healthy steps.
The 2021 Freedom’s Run is scheduled to take place on October 16, 2021. Both in-person and virtual races are planned. Race info and registration links are at FreedomsRun.org.By Mark Cucuzzella