50 Days. 50 Miles. 50 People.

In 50 days, I will run the JFK 50 Miler. It’s the nation’s oldest ultramarathon. I ran an ultra in April, a 50K (31 miles), but this will be my first (only?) 50 miler.

As I’ve done with each of my major races, I’m running for a cause. This time it’s for NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Because mental illness touches all of us in some way.
Because it’s still too stigmatized and misunderstood.
And because my own daughter lives with anxiety and depression.

Her story isn’t mine to tell, though she did give me permission to share this. (Really. I asked several times. I showed her this post. My kid is a teen, which means she does not hesitate to tell me to kiss off.)

As for my story, I’ll say this: it has been the single hardest experience of my life, but also the most important and precious. My kid is beautiful, brilliant, talented, and strong. There’s nowhere I’d rather be than by her side. (Stand with her too: donate here.)

In the early days of my daughter’s most acute struggles, I signed up for a 50 miler. It’s hard to explain the timing of this decision. It felt reckless in a way. But I knew it was the right thing to do. I needed something big and audacious, something that was mine alone. In retrospect, it gave me additional excuses to care for myself: to eat well, to get solid sleep each night, to pare down my work to the essentials, and to exercise regularly. (OK, there’s nothing “regular” about running 22 miles one day and 16 miles the next. Noted.)

In all things over the past several months, the invitation has been to hold things as lightly as possible—worries about the future, wondering whether the worst is past or if another shoe will drop, fretting over whether this will be a lifelong struggle, or just a terrible but temporary quirk of the teenage brain.

Meanwhile, my kid continues to astound me with her stubborn determination to get better. She is my hero. I’m going to run 50 miles in a couple of months — Fifty. Miles. — but in terms of hard things that members of the Dana family will do this year, it is a distant, distant second.

One of the many trail races I’ve done in preparation of the JFK.

One of the many trail races I’ve done in preparation of the JFK.

Just as we’ve tried to hold all things lightly, I’ve held the race pretty lightly too. I’m training, but I reserve the right to call it off if it doesn’t feel right and good. Well, now the time is close. It’s 50 days away. Even now, I’m willing to let it go… but I can actually see it happening. That said, it can’t just be me running a stupid number of miles. I need to connect it to something larger.

That something larger is you. I’m looking for at least 50 people to donate any amount to NAMI over the next 50 days. Please join me. Root for me, and root for my kid. It would mean the world to us.