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It's time to shine the light

By Henry Howard

What drives us, as ultra runners, to seek out epic challenges?

For some it may be to redefine our limits, see what's possible for our bodies or just explore new places.

All of those are tremendous reasons and motivators. Still, for others, losing themselves in the training and racing is a way to overcome mental health issues. Finding joy on the trails often means pushing out the demons that can be overwhelming at times. The escape into nature has a calming effect and also gives the runner time to think, process and refocus.

It is, however, not a simple solution or one that is magic cure-all.

That's why mental health counseling is so imperative. And that is why I support Bigger Than The Trail (BTTT). It's a nonprofit organization dedicated to trail running, and raising funds to cover mental health counseling for those who cannot afford it.

I believe in the mission of BTTT. And that is why I am dedicating my 100-mile race at the Hennepin Hundred on Oct. 2-3 to support it and raise funds for the organization. I would be honored if you would support BTTT as part of this effort. Any donation is meaningful and appreciated, especially during September, which is national suicide prevention awareness month. You can learn more and donate here.

As an added incentive, BTTT has kindly offered up some gear that we will give away to a donor who will be picked at random after I complete Hennepin.

In the past several years, it's been a privilege to share the stories of some of my fellow BTTT ambassadors. Among them:

• Tommy Byrne, the founder of BTTT, who says trail running has helped him overcome issues he's dealt with since losing his father to suicide. • Sarah McMahon, who has excelled as an ultra runner and overcome her disordered eating.

• Chris Patterson, who was saved by BTTT and now is a trail runner and passionate supporter of the organization. There are many other examples of those whose lives have been improved by BTTT and mental health counseling. Still, more can and needs to be done. The ongoing pandemic has certainly caused undue stress on many Americans. It definitely has been more challenging for those who were dealing with traumatic issues even before COVID became a household word.

I feel fortunate that the vaccines have helped us slowly return to a resemblance of normalcy. Unfortunately we still need additional vaccinations, safety protocols and other measures to defeat this awful pandemic.

As the start line of Hennepin, I will be grateful for the opportunity to race once again, my crew who will help me and those in the ultra running community who inspire me. My "why" is to push myself to new challenges and increase my odds — slightly — of getting the opportunity to run Western States.

And, last but not least, I am grateful for the opportunity to use my passion for running to help those who need assistance. As I run through the day and night, I will be thinking about Tommy, Sarah, Chris and others.

Let's add to that list of success stories. Your kind donation will help shine a light through the darkness for someone in need.


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