Professor Shawn Bearden seeks support for World Marathon Challenge to Fight Stigma of Depression
Fighting the demons of depression and helping others in this quest are motivating Idaho State University Professor Shawn Bearden to attempt to run seven marathons in seven days on seven continents in January 2018 by participating in the World Marathon Challenge.
“Like a parasite that no one knew I had, it ate the fabric of everything that held me together,” Bearden said of the depression he suffered.
Although Bearden is a high performer, he had never met a challenge as difficult as facing his depression. He’s run ultra-marathons on mountain trails, was a high-level soccer player, earned a doctoral degree, and is an accomplished researcher with funding from the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association.
“I am no stranger to hard work, both physically and mentally, but nothing compares to the total draining fatigue of depression. It’s exhausting,” Bearden said.
Telling his wife that he was suffering from depression was his first step in battling the malady, which he said led him to planning suicide.
“Finally telling my wife was the start of learning that I didn’t always have to hold myself up, be strong, pretend I’m happy, or be something I’m not,” he said. “That was the start of my recovery.”
Since then, he has explored numerous methods to address and treat his depression. Key to these efforts, for him and others, is getting over the stigma of having it. “The message has to be clearer, stronger and louder that depression is not to be hidden, marginalized or stigmatized,” Bearden said. “It’s okay to have depression, it’s okay to tell someone and its okay to ask for help. Having depression doesn’t mean you’re damaged or weak.”
This is why Bearden has reached out to become a running ambassador for and will represent the charity iFred at the World Marathon Challenge. iFred, the International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression, has a mission “to shine a positive light on depression and eliminate the stigma associated with the disease through prevention, research and education.”
The World Marathon Challenge is seven 26.2-mile races that begin with one in Antarctica and finish with one in Australia. In between, there are marathons scheduled in Punta Arenas, Chile, South America; Miami, North America; Madrid, Spain, Europe; Marrakech, Morocco, Africa; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Asia. These locations are subject to change but will be finalized this spring. He will have 168 hours to finish the last marathon after he begins the first.
“Running seven marathons on seven continents in seven days is amazing, sure, but everyone can give back by volunteering at your local food bank or simply being kind to others,” Bearden said. “People listen when you do monumental things and your message can be delivered to a larger audience. By running this challenge, I’ll get that voice in interviews, post-race speaking engagements, and maybe even a short documentary of the adventure”.
“But,” he continued,” we can all do epic things and have epic influence in our daily lives, too. Running is a metaphor for fighting depression. ‘One step at a time.’ You may not be able to take 50,000 steps in a row right now, but you can take one, and then another.”
Bearden is raising funds to participate in the World Marathon Challenge, which costs about $38,000 to participate in, and he has the additional expenses of getting to the Antarctica and home from Australia. While raising those funds, a portion with go to iFred.org. All funds above the those required for the event that he can raise will go iFred (http://iFred.org).
Those interested in supporting Bearden’s effort can visit his support page at GoFundMe.com/worldmarathons.
“It’s only through donations that I’ll be able to run this event and carry my message about depression to help others,” Bearden said.
For more information about the World Marathon Challenge, visit www.worldmarathonchallenge.com.