Running & Mental Health

Sarah McMahon
2 min readDec 26, 2023

[Listen to an audio version of this blog here.]

The other day I saw a meme that said something about endurance sports attracting people with trauma. Ha, I thought. But also, true. I’ve met people dozens of miles into a race who tell me all about their trauma; addictions, abuse, depression, disorders. Most of the time, I don’t even have to ask. Endurance sports are a linear, non-complicated metaphor for overcoming difficulty and hardship. Put one foot in front of the other long enough, and you’ll eventually reach the finish line. Learn to manage pain, and you’ll reach the finish line. Learn to push hard, to be strong and resilient, to keep going and eventually, you’ll reach that finish line. Learn to train your body and mind and reaching the finish line might hurt a little less.

What endurance sports have that life does not are finish lines. Whether you’re doing a half marathon or a multi-day adventure race, the event will eventually be over. You’ll feel achy, exhausted, and elated and then, you’ll go back to your normal life answering emails, driving to work, whipping up some casserole for dinner.

What a lot of people are looking for when they sign up for a race is a challenge, a way to test their strength. What is often missed in this quest for a challenge is that the race itself is hard, but not even as close to as hard as life can be. There is only one finish line in life, and I’m pretty sure none of us are in a hurry to get there.

Around a year ago, Patrick Carew reached out to me with a proposition; to do a promotional video for Bigger Than the Trail. Bigger Than the trail is a nonprofit that uses trail running as a means to spread knowledge, care, and compassion around mental health. They raise money to provide educational support and treatment options for people who can’t afford therapy. Finding a therapist is difficult enough, but affording one is out of reach for many people. The mission of Bigger Than the Trail is so much bigger than running because life is bigger than running.

During the holiday season, life can be especially daunting. I’m re-sharing this video now in the hopes that it will spread the word around Bigger Than the Trail, lead to some year end donations, or offer help and hope to those who need it.

Donate to Bigger Than the Trail here.

P.S. Find a Bigger Than The Trail event here, buy some gear here, or donate here ($180 provides an entire month of counseling for someone in need).


Sarah Rose