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We all can help prevent suicide by attending the June 23 mud run

By: Tony Overbay Special to The News Messenger
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A few weeks ago, my good friend Kelly Waterlyn asked if I could check out a property that had been loaned to her for an upcoming race. Kelly had shared with me her vision of the race a few weeks prior, it would be a mud run, and it truly touched me. As you may have read in last week?s News Messenger (front page, June 7, ?Families kick up dirt to prevent more suicides?), Kelly and her family, along with the Whalen and Aguilar families, are hosting the Mud Run 4 Life to raise awareness for suicide prevention. The families each lost a young man to suicide last year. I love to run, and admittedly, I love mud. Sometimes, these two loves come together, and on those rare occasions, it truly is magical. Several years ago, as a new trail runner, I spent far too much time trying to avoid mud and puddles in hopes of keeping my feet dry. Finally, after a couple of years, I embraced the mud and it made the runs far more enjoyable. After all, who doesn?t like a good excuse to go splashing around in puddles, running through the mud and getting dirty with no repercussions? As a therapist, I?ve worked with, and around, suicide for quite some time. I?ve worked with families trying to cope with the suicide of a loved one, as well as teens, and adults who are looking for a reason not to end their own lives. Each and every story touches me and stays with me. I knew Jake Waterlyn well ... I gravitated toward Jake. He was that kind of guy, always a smile, always a kind word. I had hiked with him, ridden bikes with him and eaten ice cream with him. He was an amazing young man. I heard of Jake leaving us while I was on a business trip in Japan. I couldn?t believe it. I went on a run that morning along the Hachioji river in Hachioji, Japan, and just thought about Jake and his family and all of the families that I have worked with who have been devastated by suicide. I was caught up in the run, and at one point, I glanced down at my watch and I was well over an hour and a half away from my hotel. It was an overcast morning, it had been raining. I?m sure I splashed through a puddle or two that morning. I had been caught up in thought. Thankfully I didn?t have meetings for a few hours so I turned around and headed back. I ran nearly a marathon?s distance that morning, just thinking about all of these people who left the Earth too soon. Since that day, on most of my runs, I say a silent prayer at some point for those who may be struggling and I pray that they find help. The Mud Run 4 Life will provide help. When Kelly approached me at Gold?s Gym with the news that she was going to organize a run to benefit suicide prevention, I was running rather fast on a treadmill. I had never shared the story of my run along the Hachioji river with anyone but to have such an amazing experience for me be tied to a run and then to have Kelly mention that she was organizing this run, my knees buckled a bit and I almost did a face plant on the treadmill. I don?t think that she noticed me reaching out to the handle in front of me. So there I was in this race field, ready to do whatever I could to help. I was a week out from my Glen Edwards Middle School 24-hour run and trying not to even sneeze the wrong way so that I wouldn?t go into the 24-hour run with any excuses or injuries. But on that morning, I was ready to risk allergies and ankles and run that field. Kelly asked me if I thought that there was a 5k course out there in the field somewhere, one where we could add mud, hay and all sorts of obstacles. I told her that there was only one way to find out, to run it! Joe and Diane Wenson, Gold?s Gym owners, were there, along with Kelly?s amazing husband Ron. I told them I?d be back in about 25 minutes and I took off running along the perimeter of the field. There was no trail, only weeds, knee high weeds. Turned ankles and allergies (yes, I have them pretty bad) be darned, I was so touched by this entire event I just wanted to help, to run. Approximately ¾ of a mile into the run (I had my GPS watch on keeping the distance) I hit what felt like a mini-lake! I was knee deep in water, wonderful, glorious Mud Run type of water! I made a mental note of how far into the run the water was, but then, even better, I pulled out my cell phone and saw I had full signal strength. I called Kelly and described the swamp I was running through. She was giddy, I was giddy. I hung up and kept running. At just over a mile, I jumped a canal and called Kelly. About a mile and a half into the run, I came upon a small cattle trail and I called Kelly. I approached the back of the field and I was running parallel to a road. I called Kelly to tell her that spectators could watch from the road! I called her a couple of more times as I ran through chest-high weeds, sneezing and loving the run. As I made my way back to Kelly and the rest of the crew, I glanced down at the watch, 3.10 miles. That, my friends, is a 5k course! I am grateful for the Waterlyn ,Whalen and Aguilar families for their courage to speak out about the effects of suicide on their families. If the attention that they draw with this run or the money that they raise helps one person, and it will, they will have saved a life. I am grateful to be a part of this event and I am encouraged by the awareness that it will bring to our close-knit community. So please join me and hundreds of others on June 23 for the first ever Lincoln Mud Run 4 Life, with all of the proceeds going to the Lincoln Rotary Foundation. The foundation will, in turn, provide the proceeds to Lincoln-based counseling and suicide-prevention programs. If you can?t run, walk, and if you can?t walk, just sign up and come watch. It?s a chance to play in the mud, support a community and quite literally, save lives. For more information, please visit mud-run-4-life.org. Lincoln resident Tony Overbay is a marriage and family therapist intern practicing at LDS Family Services and a father of four. He also writes a humor column for The News Messenger.