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Personal loss fuels 1,000-mile run for Henrico firefighter and friend

HENRICO, Va. -- The 1000-mile journey of Henrico firefighter Alex Hall and his Maryland friend Thaddeus Meyer begins on Memorial Day and runs 25 days, but they hope the impact will last even longer.

The duo are calling the fundraising event: See Our Symptoms (SOS) Run: a Million Steps to Mental Health Awareness and Suicide Prevention.

Thaddeus writes that what they are attempting to do "is dwarfed by the pain and anguish those who suffer from mental illness and thoughts of suicide endure." The story is personal for Thaddeus, whose mother committed suicide in April 2017. 

"For 70 years, she was the embodiment of joy, affection, compassion, goodness, tenderness, and pure love," he wrote on the event page for the run. "She was a devoted wife of nearly 50 years to my father, and she adored her four children almost as much as her twelve grandchildren."

Thaddeus said that his mother hid her symptoms of depression so well that no one could see how much anguish she was in, and shortly after her 72nd birthday, she took her own life. Reflecting back, he writes that the signs "were there and, yet somehow, we all failed to see them."

This won't be the first long charity run the Alex and Thaddeus have undertaken. They raised money on a 343-mile run in 2015 for the I WILL foundation.

Thad and Alex on a prior long distance run.

"I really had nothing to say but I'm here for you and let me know what you want to do," Alex said. "So we talked again later that week and he said 'hey I want to do something to raise funds for suicide prevention.'"

"We later came to the conclusion it will be 500 plus miles, then we said 'alright let's do 1,000 miles,'" Alex said.

That's the kind of decision made by friends who have been running long distances together for the past decade.

The feat is more than most people can comprehend. They will be away from their family and creature comforts for over three weeks. Averaging 40 miles per day, the pair will tackle the entire Bruce Trail in Ontario, Canada, then continue on the Erie Canal Way trail in Upstate New York from Buffalo to Albany.

In addition to the logistics involved, they have to prepare their bodies to handle the long distance. The runners are writing about that process on the Facebook page for the event, here. 

Alex and Thaddeus have raised over $4,500 of their $20,000 goal. You can click this link to donate and track their progress.