On Friday, May 11, 2012, at a frosty 7:00 AM, the first of two 12-person teams set off from Myles Standish State Forest in Plymouth, MA on what would be a 30-hour, 186-mile odyssey to Provincetown. These 24 runners included persons with lived experience of a mental health condition, supporters, and staff. Their mission was to raise public awareness of the health crisis that is robbing people with psychiatric conditions of 25 years of their lives. On the way they learned a little bit about their own capacity to endure, modeled the importance of “walking the talk” by committing to vigorous training in preparation for the event, and had a great time together bonding in their efforts for a common cause.
Vinfen’s Run-for-Life is now in its fourth year as a Vinfen Health Initiative, with all funds used to seed health initiatives in Vinfen programs. According to Vinfen’s CEO, Bruce Bird: “For the last decade, Vinfen has been engaged in a wide range of projects aimed at improving the health and wellness of the individuals we serve. This was a wonderful way to engage the entire company in raising awareness and funds for these efforts.”
Each of the two teams’ runners covers an average of 15.6 miles on foot (the full range for the 2015 relay is 9.7 to 21.5 miles for individual runners), in three exchanges, or “legs” over the course of approximately 30 hours. Between legs, each team’s two vans shuttled runners from exchange to exchange, providing vehicular support and cheering team members on during their legs. Last year, runners and their supporters raised over $17,000 for the run, all of which went to Vinfen’s Lamson Health Fund.
Paul, one of Vinfen’s runners for the event, has had a wonderful journey in his recovery, starting with many demoralizing inpatient stays over a ten year period. “I’ve often thought our nutritional and fitness needs were seen as not important when not addressed [in the hospital]. We’re there for our minds and told to sit down and not move. This gets absorbed and follows us into the community after we leave the hospital. I feel treating the mind and not the body is a recipe for failure, and I would like to see some success.” Asked about being on a team of runners for the relay, Paul responded “being the first client to run was cool. It shows me how far I’ve come, and I hope it inspires others. Fifteen years ago if someone told me I would be able to do this I would not have believed them. I was the 235 lb smoker, drinker, drug addict, schizophrenic…now I am a 175 lb, 15-year non-smoker, non-drinker, non-drugging person with mild schizophrenia that is capable of running 14 8-minute miles. I feel fitness and nutrition are key in helping me control the schizophrenia.”
Research findings echo Paul’s concerns. People with serious mental illnesses are at risk of premature death, largely due to complications from untreated, preventable chronic conditions like obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. These conditions are aggravated by poverty-driven health choices, like poor nutrition, lack of exercise, and smoking. Here’s what we know helps:
- Weight loss and fitness interventions improve health outcomes and longevity
- A small 5% weight loss for individuals who are overweight or obese is considered clinically significant and results in reduced risk factors for metabolic disorders and cardiovascular disease.
- Improving cardio-respiratory fitness by just one metabolic equivalent per day is associated with a 10-17% reduced mortality risk, independent of weight loss.
For bios of the runners, pictures of past events, and more information about how you can support Vinfen’s Run-4-Life, visit Vinfen on First Giving.