Father Vows to Run 100 Marathons in 140 Days
On Oct. 2, Fessenden began the journey of a lifetime. He decided to get off the couch and run 100 marathons across the country, from Savannah, Ga., to Los Angeles, Calif., giving himself a deadline to finish by Feb. 19. "I'm doing this for my daughter, Suzanne, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia 12 years ago. I want to raise awareness for people suffering from mental illness because it's a disease that gets swept under the rug. No one wants to talk about it," Fessenden told AOL News. "I'm outraged over the way people with mental illness are treated in America. There's such a stigma that comes with having a mental illness. It's time to educate the public and stop ignoring it," he said.
As he runs across the country, Fessenden's main mission is to attract attention and donations toward his cause. He said any sponsorships or donations given to him along the way will go directly to organizations like NARSAD, the Brain and Behavior Research Fund, and NAMI, the National Association for Mental Illness. Fessenden wants all funds to be used for modern research and solutions to mental illness because he believes the methods being used today are completely outdated. "Seventy-five million people are affected by mental illness -- more than heart disease and cancer -- yet we do nothing to fund new research," he said. "Doctors are still using electroshock therapy, which was created in the 1930s. It's painful for the patient and it doesn't work. We need better alternatives."
Instead of moping around and feeling helpless, Fessenden decided to strap on his running shoes and run for Suzanne's life, chronicling every step of the way on afathersjourney.org. There, he logs each one of his personal 26.2-mile marathons and talks about the challenges of the journey -- both his and Suzanne's. His daughter has even taken to blogging some posts herself, sharing -- for the first time ever in her life -- her terrifying, first-hand experiences with schizophrenia. "Mental illness takes away someone's whole life. My daughter has been hearing voices in her head since she was 13, telling her she's a horrible person. She's been through so much, this is nothing in comparison," Fessenden said. "If she can do that, I can handle a couple of blisters and sore muscles."
At this point, Fessenden said his body is still in pretty good shape. He's run roughly 25 of the 100 marathons already and figures he'll have to do 23 each month until Feb. 19 to stay on track. "I run three marathons in three days, and I rest on the fourth day, usually a Friday. I stretch, ice my body and take good care of myself after each run. I'm much hungrier than usual, so I'm eating 6,000 calories a day. The good thing is, I can eat anything I want and I've still lost 20 pounds," he said.
Although he's in good spirits most of the time, Fessenden admits he does get tired at certain points, especially toward the last four miles. "That's when I go a little slower, take a deep breath and think of Suzanne. I think about what she's been through and what she continues to go through each day. So what if my muscles hurt? I have to man up and get moving -- for her." Since he's hitting 100 cities along his trek, Fessenden invites folks to come out and run with him at any given mile. He figures he'll get some company in major cities like Dallas, just like Tom Hanks had in "Forrest Gump."
Once his marathon mission is all said and done, Fessenden said he'll continue fighting for awareness for as long as he has to. "I'm hopeful that gains will be made over time. Progress is possible, and if I can add myself to the efforts, it's all worth it for me," he said.