I love the name of this website. I don’t know how many websites I’ve built over the last twelve years, but Sad Runner is one of my favorite names.
Most people think the site’s name is about me. True, I have severe depression and been known to run occasionally. It’s natural to assume I’m talking about myself but there’s a bit more under the surface, and that’s what I want to explore for the next few minutes.
Runners vs. Depression Fighters
You may see someone running and feel exhausted by only watching, but you two have more in common than you think. Runners, well most endurance athletes, have a good amount in common with Depression Fighters.
Nobody can run your race for you
If you want to be a good runner you have to put in the hours on the road to earn the medal at the end of your race. You can have friends and family cheering for you but, at the end of it all, nobody can run your race but you. Depression and running are alike in that nobody can do the work for you. Your friends and family can be the most encouraging and supportive people ever created but nobody is going to suffer your depression but you. It’s your race, and only you can run it.
Your mind is your biggest obstacle
Depression Fighters agree that your mind can be your greatest obstacle, your biggest enemy, in your life. You see a runner and think of the physical exertion, but that’s nothing compared to the mental game. What your mind goes through when running long distances is more of a challenge than any hill or any rough course. Runners and Depression Fighters alike battle their minds to succeed.
The monotony of life can become both soothing and painful
The repetition of running calms my mind. The simplicity is a nice contrast to my complicated professional life. It’s ironic to me that the monotony of it all can also become panic inducing. I love running but at some point, I’m ready to be done, and when I have more to go, it just kills my brain and I panic. The same thing happens in real life for me too. My anxiety requires me to be a creature of habit and keep things nice and smooth. However, that gets a bit boring and then the depression sets in. So it’s a rock and hard place situation that I often also encounter when I go for a run.
Nobody gets why you do what you do
Nobody understands why I ‘like’ to run way too far, and nobody knows the pain that’s in my head and heart due to depression. You pretty much have a life of misunderstanding, and that can be discouraging for both runners and Depression Fighters. The habits you create, the lifestyle you have are all because of this big thing in your life and people just don’t get that.
Your priorities in life are a little different than everyone else
Why do I skip other things so I can go for a run? Why do I pack running shoes when I travel to a new city? Yeah, that’s weird. My priorities are a little different than yours. Well, it’s the same thing with Depression Fighters. Why do we avoid certain topics of conversation? Why do we place a high priority on personal space? Why is alone time near the top of anyone’s list? It’s because we know what we need to get the job done and to achieve our goal of thriving despite our illness.
Your toughness comes from within
The thing runners and Depression Fighters have in common that, I feel, is most important is the fact that you are both tough as hell. I mean, endurance athletes and Depression Fighters are some of the biggest badasses I’ve ever met. I’m in awe of both groups. You’re tougher than you realize, and both groups often don’t feel very strong when they’re being tested. But you’re so strong, and that is remarkable. You should be proud of that.
Becoming a Sad Runner
While there are a good amount of things both Depression Fighters and runners have in common, there are some things that runners have that should be adopted by people fighting their depression. Bringing more traits of endurance athletes into your flight with depression will only make you more successful and build up a better stamina to survive.
Runners never quit, they just get stronger
You can’t beat a real runner. You can finish faster, but you can’t beat them. They just get stronger. Hills, heat, cramps, fear and doubt are nothing for a runner. They just keep moving forward and their bodies reward them with strength.
So many people with depression feel weak and beaten down by their illness. That’s not right because you’re stronger than you realize and the fact that you’re still going despite it makes you all that much stronger. If you never quit, you’ll just get stronger. You won’t lose.
Runners start getting good at the point everyone else gives up
There’s a difference between real runners, and the chick in the yoga pants running with her earbuds. That girl will call it a day at about the point a real runner is done warming up. I’m not talking distance; I’m talking mental fortitude. When you get to a point where your body is ready to quit running, whether that’s 50 miles in or 50 steps, something happens in your brain. The alarms go off, and your brain tells you it’s time to call it a day. But that’s when a real runner knows it’s time to clock in to work. A real runner knows she won’t get better until she reaches that point and pushes beyond it.
The difference between your average person with depression and a real Depression Fighter is the distance they are willing to go. You can bail early and let depression control your life and stay on the couch and be bitter, or you can push past it, refuse to let it hold you back and pursue your dreams.
Runners have a different relationship with pain
Pain sucks. There’s no way around it. I have had shin splints, hip flexor pain, busted toes, migraines, paper cuts, and hang nails. Large or small, any pain is unwelcome and often frustrating. But runners just look at suffering a little differently. Sometimes it’s our body telling us something important, so we listen, other times it’s a challenge thrown down, and we decide to push past it. Other times the pain is a lesson that we can learn to improve ourselves. For runners, pain is unwelcome but not the end of the world. It could be the start of something important.
I wish more people with depression would use their pain. Use it for others, use it as a driving force, use it to teach yourself valuable lessons, just use the pain. The only thing worse than pain is wasted pain.
Runners let fear fuel them
A friend once told me he didn’t want to run a marathon because it scared him. I said I was terrified of marathons too, and that’s why I signed up to run one.
You can let fear hold you back, or you can let it propel you forward. I don’t want to look back on my life wishing I did more in spite of my fears. I don’t want anything left on my list when my day ends. I’m more afraid of a wasted life, and that fuels me.
Don’t let your fears, your anxiety, hold you back. Harness its power and use it the way you want to use it because it’s yours. My mental illness forces me to work continuously on stuff. I’m up at 3 AM and work until I fall asleep around 8 PM. If I stay still for too long, my depression sets in. I start to have awful thoughts in my head, and the pain brings me down. My anxiety will heighten, I’ll start to pace, my right hand will start to shake, and the Hulk emotions will start to show up on the horizon. But, if I can get to work as soon as possible and start getting things done, then I don’t have to worry about any of those consequences.
After about 6 months of doing this to fight my depression anxiety, I realized this makes me a pretty productive person. In fact, I get more done in a day than most individuals who don’t have depression. Why? Because I’m using the negative to fuel the positive. You can do that too.
Runners approach uphills differently
Uphill seasons are a sucky part of life, and there’s no way around it. I wish it weren’t the case but a broken world equals disappointment, frustration, and sorrow from time to time. I’ve noticed that real runners, though they may never enjoy them, appreciate the hills for what they bring with them. Yes, it’s a stiff challenge but it also brings development physically and mentally. Runners understand that it may suck now but, in the big picture, it isn’t forever, and it’s quite beneficial.
I don’t expect you to love your depression or smile when an episode comes your way. We just have depression; we’re not insane. But we can look at these uphill seasons in our lives with a positive attitude. Yes, we may not want them. Yes, they may scare us. Yes, discomfort is certainly on the way. But on the other side of the hill is a better, stronger more badass you. Runners get that, and I wish more Depression Fighters understood it and tried to pursue that attitude. Our condition already breeds so much negativity; we don’t want to add to it.
Runners find peace inside themselves
Runners can be quite zen and downright stoic. Next time you watch a marathon, check out the leaders in the pack. Man or woman, it doesn’t matter they are all the same. Their legs move faster than yours for 26.2 miles straight. You can watch as one foot flies past the other and propels them forward. But then you look at their faces. They look almost bored. From the neck, up they’re focused and intent but remain calm and collected. At least that’s how they appear on the outside.
That peace and confidence comes from within and, no matter how crazy the race is, how big the crowds are, how tough the competition is the are unfazed. Why? They put in the work; they know what they want, and they understand it’s time to go to work and get it. That’s what I want to see in Depression Fighters. I don’t want it to matter to you whether your depression is severe, mild, postpartum or chronic. I don’t want you to give you anxiety another thought. I want you to focus on your goals, your dreams, your purpose. The peace those runners have comes from a combination of confidence because they prepared well and focus because they know they’re running toward their goal.
Imagine if that was how we described people with depression. What if people with depression weren’t known for the stigma but instead for our confidence and determination. That’s where the peace comes from for runners, and that’s where it can come from for you too.
You can’t break the runner’s spirit
If you want to plant a bomb that paralyzes and kills people all to destroy their resolve and determination, you better pick a different group of targets than a bunch of marathoners.
That’s what we witnessed in Boston, the defiance of the runner’s spirit. We’ve seen stories since that horrible event of victims of the attack still finishing the marathon after they recovered. That’s the runner’s spirit.
“You bomb my finish line and keep me from my goal; I’ll come back next year on a prosthetic limb and still crush this race.” That’s who real runners are, and that’s what I want for the spirit of Depression Fighters.
Your illness can try and break you. It can screw with your relationships. It can fill you with self-doubt and pain. But it cannot knock you out forever if you don’t let it. I’m still alive for a variety of reasons but near the top of the list is my defiant, spiteful spirit flipping off my illness and lacing up for another race through my life.
You simply cannot beat me if I refuse to quit. If I keep moving toward my goal, I can’t lose. You’re barking up the wrong tree by hurting me because I’ll just come back stronger and better because of it and I’ll inspire others along the way. My depression can give me hell tonight; I’ll still be here in the morning looking at my goals and working toward them.
That’s the runner’s spirit, and I want you to have that too.
Anyone can be a Sad Runner
If you haven’t guessed it yet, a Sad Runner isn’t always just an athlete competing in sport. No, a Sad Runner is someone who continues to move forward despite their illness, despite that painful depression that wants to destroy them. They say, “screw this I’m still going to do what I came here to do, and nothing will stop me.”
Sad Runners keep going toward the goal no matter their condition. They’re survivors, they’re warriors, Sad Runners are unstoppable.
This site is named Sad Runner, not because I laced up my shoes one day and ran despite my depression. No, I named it Sad Runner for myself and all the others out there who lace up their shoes EVERY day and run the race of their life, pursuing their dreams against the greatest of odds. They say, “I’m here for a reason and nothing, not even my mental illness, will get in the way.”
But not everyone can be a Sad Runner
Being a Sad Runner isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t easy. Many depression sufferers give up on life. I’m not referring to suicide. I’m referring to something much worse.
To kill me tomorrow would not be the worst thing in my opinion. To live a lifetime of pain and sorrow and have nothing to show for it, no dreams checked off the list, no purpose fulfilled is far worse to me than taking my life. Being a waste is so much more painful than the depression.
But so many people with depression let it control them and push them into lethargic, unproductive lives. I feel sorry for them because they’re the only ones really losing the fight against their depression. They are wasting away, waiting to die.
But not Sad Runners, that’s not how they roll. Sad Runners are aggressive and refuse to stand still and wait for depression to consume them. They punch back at their illness. They find methods and tricks to get around it; they hack it together as best they can, and they keep moving forward even when things get ugly.
At the core, if you’re running sad, as long as you’re still running you’re doing great.
From now on, when you see the words Sad Runner, I don’t want you to think of me, some random depressed guy who likes to run marathons occasionally. I want you to be empowered by those words. I want you to own them in your heart; I want you to tap into the Sad Runner spirit. I want when you see Sad Runner, you don’t think of me; you think of all of us. Those in this world who are facing immeasurable pain but who still keep running despite it.
If you have depression, and you still got up today, and went to work, and were a good Mom to your kids, and still pursued your dream, still lived on purpose, congrats, you’re a Sad Runner. Look at that; you didn’t even need to buy new shoes for the race.
Sad Runners are people who keep moving forward despite facing crushing depression (and anxiety). Mental illness is a tough opponent, but my fellow Sad Runners are way tougher, and I’ll bet my money on them. You simply cannot beat a Sad Runner. By definition, they just keep going.