Ryan Mains suffered from firefighter PTSD and now runs ultramarathons to raise awareness and end the stigma around getting help for mental health.

Ryan Mains Ultrarunning to Raise Awareness for Firefighter PTSD – BtR 230

Ryan Mains is an ultrarunner determined to raise awareness for the struggle of firefighters with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Ryan Mains suffered from firefighter PTSD and now runs ultramarathons to raise awareness and end the stigma around getting help for mental health.

Originally published on September 1, 2020.

Firefighters are some of our country’s bravest heroes, and yet they often suffer from PTSD as a result of their service. Even though PTSD is a real and serious problem, it is often overlooked or dismissed in the firefighter community. As a way to bring attention to this important issue, Ryan Mains is using his passion for ultra-running to raise awareness of PTSD among firefighters.

About Firefighter PTSD – #EndTheStigma

Some first responder mental health statistics include the following:

  • 1 firefighter commits suicide every three days in the United States
  • First responders are five times more likely to have suicidal ideations than the general public
  • Among firefighters – 46.8% have ideations of suicide, 19.2% plan suicide, and 15.5% make an attempt. (SAMHSA, 2018)
  • Among the general U.S. public – 13.5% have ideations of suicide, 3.9% plan suicide, and 4.6% make an attempt (SAMHSA, 2018)

In 2019, Ryan Mains was serving as a firefighter in his community when he started to feel ideations for suicide. There was a stigma over the issues of depression, suicide, and PTSD among firefighter organizations, so the risk of harm was high for Ryan. The years of responding to motor-vehicle accidents and fires, seeing death and carnage, had taken their toll on him. It was desperately time to get some help.

Treatment of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Fortunately for Ryan, his wife began to recognize the signs of PTSD and reached out for help. Years later, Ryan is doing better now. He is getting the treatment he needs. The sadder news was being medically retired after efforts to raise awareness and get assistance for the mental health needs of himself and others.

Treatment for PTSD is an important step toward helping those affected by the disorder. While there is no single form of treatment that works for everyone, evidence-based therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) are all effective strategies for managing symptoms of PTSD.

Ketamine is also being used by some medical professionals with great success.

Signs of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

The Mayo Clinic lists signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and when to reach out for help. Some of the signs and symptoms include the following:

– flashbacks

– difficulty sleeping

– nightmares

– feeling constantly on edge (scanning the room for danger for example)

– irritability or outbursts of anger

– difficulty concentrating

– problems with memory

– avoidance of people, places, activities, or thoughts that are associated with the traumatic event

  • feeling detached from family and friends
  • feeling numb emotionally

Help for PTSD and Thoughts of Suicide Is Available

If you feel a sense of hopelessness or even ideations of suicide, please call or text right now to The Lifeline at 988.

Their website is 988lifeline.org. Tomorrow needs you!

Ryan Mains is an example of how people can use their passions to make a difference and help those in need. With his cross-country run, he hopes to bring much-needed attention to the struggle firefighters face with PTSD and encourage them to seek the help they need. I applaud his commitment and am looking forward to following his progress.

In addition, I hope that his journey will inspire other firefighters to seek the help they need if they are struggling with PTSD or be more mindful of its signs so they can support one another in their recovery. I also hope that the firefighter community increases the resources available to take care of those who take care of us. Let’s all join together in supporting Ryan Mains and the fight to raise awareness of PTSD among firefighters.

Thank you Ryan for your bravery and commitment to making a difference. We’re all in this together!

For more information about Ryan Mains’ cross-country run, please visit and Like his Facebook page, Run For Our Lives.

Resources and Links

Ryan finishing up the 130 km ultrarunning event “Run for Our Lives” in 2020, view video on Facebook

Follow Ryan and his cause on the Facebook Page, Run for Our Lives

The Illinois Firefighter Peer Support Hotline has a page dedicated to Run for Our Lives and information on firefighter PTSD.

Read the 2018 report from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration about mental health needs among first responders. Firefighter PTSD is addressed here and information on first responder mental health statistics is provided.

Listen to these past related episodes of Beyond the Rut

BtR 118 – Sean Douglas on Resilience and Life Transformation

BtR 122 – Melissa Monte on Knowing What You Stand For

BtR 151 – Rob Decker Surviving Suicide and Overcoming Drug Addiction

BtR 218 – Katina Stith Overcoming Sexual Assault, Human Trafficking and Suicide

Connect with Us

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Twitter @beyondtherut

Facebook Beyond the Rut

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Music Attribution

“Oceans Apart” is our theme song composed and performed by Scott Ian Holmes.


Jerry Dugan  00:00

Beyond the rut is a proud member of the Lima Charlie Network. Welcome to Beyond the rut, the weekly podcast that discusses faith, family, fitness, finances and future possibility. I’m one of your hosts Jerry. And in just a moment Brandon is going to join us as we have a conversation with firefighter and Army veteran Ryan mains. Ryan mains in 2020 ran a 130 Kilometer ultra marathon to raise awareness for PTSD among firefighters. Why? Because it’s a struggle he himself is facing, as he goes out day and night, to keep his community safe, from fire from medical emergencies and so on. It has taken a toll on him. He’s not alone. In fact, PTSD runs rampant among firefighters where they are actually five times more likely to commit suicide, or think about suicide, then our civilian non firefighter counterparts. So we’re here to talk about Ryan’s story, his struggle, his triumphs and his efforts to raise awareness to end the stigma of PTSD among firefighters. So sit back and relax. And let’s listen to this conversation with Ryan Mainz, as he raises awareness of PTSD among firefighters, and why he ran 130 kilometers for his cars run for our lives. Here we go. All right, Brennan. Put the taco down. And get to the mic. Please. Wait, there’s tacos. Now there isn’t but well, there will be but that’s for me and I? Yeah, my baby girl. She. I don’t know if I told you. But this is like the 10th anniversary of one direction, which is that other boy band,

Brandon Cunningham  01:43

I actually throw a big party for that every year. So you celebrated the 10th anniversary, the last 10 years One Direction fan club for South Texas.

Jerry Dugan  01:53

So Bridget Jones’s Diary trilogy is your thing. Renee Zellweger and one direction.

Brandon Cunningham  01:58

To me one direction is probably the best rock and roll band ever. It killed me in the history of the world Maven, a real fan Led Zeppelin.

Jerry Dugan  02:09

I’ll put your microphone on this thing. Turn your mic off here now. Anyway, I am and I’ve got a father daughter date to watch some special documentary about them and eat tacos. So that’s what we’re doing. But that’s not why we’re on this episode. I invited a good friend of mine. I served with him in Operation Iraqi Freedom. When I was stationed at Fort Benning, and, you know, he, when he got out of the army, he became a firefighter and is doing a lot of great work around raising awareness for PTSD among firefighters. And I was like, you know, we got to have him on because this is a powerful story. I know a backpacker who’s has struggled with this in the past, and one of the things he had shared with me was how important it is for more people to be aware of what firefighters are going through. And I was like, Hey, Ryan, what are you doing next Sunday or Saturday today? Saturday? Wow, what’s wrong with me? Anyway? Ryan, who’s calling in from Illinois out of Woodstock, if I remember correctly. How are you doing? Right?

Ryan Mains  03:06

I’m good. I’m good. Thanks. Thanks for having me, guys. Heck,

Brandon Cunningham  03:09

yeah, this is really strange, because the research I did was Ryan was born in White Rock, British Columbia, Canada, but he also directed the film, golfing God and was awarded Best Feature comedy at the Eugene International Film test.

Ryan Mains  03:27

Wow, that must be my alter ego.

Brandon Cunningham  03:29

So Google, let me down

Jerry Dugan  03:31

and this is why you’re not in charge of research. Brandon loves doing that because you’ll see that movie but here it really blows my mind is that with every guest, we have you find some random movie that was directed by the by person of the same name. I don’t know how you pull that off, except for Ben. From a gift.

Brandon Cunningham  03:52

It’s a gift.

Jerry Dugan  03:54

Just Just amazing. But Ryan, thank you for jumping on here with us. You know, again, you know, our time goes back to 2001. Really, after 911 I just quick story of how I got to know Ryan. So

Brandon Cunningham  04:11

I was you were gonna tell a quick story about 911 I was like,

Jerry Dugan  04:15

yeah, yeah. But how I met Ryan is the story here.

Brandon Cunningham  04:19

I liked that movie too. How I met Ryan.

Jerry Dugan  04:23

directly by Ryan Mains. Oh, man. So anyway, yeah. So 2001 911 had happened live in and I were dating at the time. She got out of the army. While I was on leave transferring to Fort Benning. I go. Basically, I chased Liv down, we get married. But now a month after all this. I have to go report for duty at Fort Benning, Georgia with third brigade Third Infantry Division, specifically first battalion 10 field artillery. And I know nobody there I’ve got to go ahead of my family now because now I have a family and we don’t have orders for her to come with. So I gotta go first and set all this up. And this is like right around Christmas time like right before Christmas. So it’s the holiday Exodus like, hardly anybody’s there yet I gotta report for duty. I’ve got to go to physical fitness training. And again, no, I have no clue who’s who. And, yeah, two guys kind of take me in. It turns out they’re from my section and they guide me through everything I need to do to get settled. And Ryan is one of those guys.

Ryan Mains  05:27

I was one of those guys?

Jerry Dugan  05:28

Yeah, it was you guys. Yeah, you and Art were the two guys who took me in and and you learned very quickly what a horrible runner I am. But you didn’t judge me. That was the cool thing.

Brandon Cunningham  05:41

We’ve done a few five K’s. So I know about a runner. He is.

Jerry Dugan  05:45

Yeah, because the first few like all of them. I was walking. Yeah. Yeah, it’s not until this year, I can finally run a 5k. But so I share all that though. Because even then 2001. Ryan, you were probably what? 20 ish? 21?

Ryan Mains  06:02

I was 21.

Jerry Dugan  06:03

Yeah. And already the leadership skills were there. Like he wasn’t officially in charge of the squat or anything. He was just, he saw we got a new guy. Let me take him under our wing because that’s what we do and got me settled in. And just have this that natural charisma and leadership about him. Also takes a very strong stance that the Beatles were the original boy band.

Ryan Mains  06:24

No, no, they were not. That was that was somebody else’s stance.

Jerry Dugan  06:29

That’s right, that was

Ryan Mains  06:30

a line in the sand. those are fighting words.

Jerry Dugan  06:34

Right, hung up what happened? So you guys, so anyway, I bring that up on Facebook once a while just to get them riled up. Cramer will jump in once in a while and add fuel to the fire. But yeah, you know, you’ve done a lot you got out of the Army, you became a firefighter. And you know, we’ve we’ve stayed in contact all these years. And the thing that really drew me to say, Hey, we got to have Ryan on the show is the work you’ve been doing to raise awareness around PTSD, in the last few months that actually have caught my attention, you probably been doing this fight for longer than that. And, you know, I don’t even know how to segue into the first question around this. But if you just want to kind of kick it off and take the lead,

Brandon Cunningham  07:15

I think there will be something like, do you feel the same way about Jerry that he feels about you? And it’s just a love connection? I mean,

Ryan Mains  07:24

I think the love was there instantly, which is why I took him under my wing. You know, I saw something in him immediately.

Brandon Cunningham  07:32

This guy needs help

Ryan Mains  07:33

this, this story kind of all starts for me. Around March of last year, in March of 2019. I, alright, I kind of went into what I consider crisis mode with my own PTSD. And it was at that point, a diagnosis that I had had for roughly four to five years, but was in a hardcore case of denial. Say things like, you know, that’s, that’s not me, you know, that’s for guys that were in Vietnam, or, you know, those are that’s pretty guys, major city running hundreds of ambulance calls a day, you know, I don’t have that that’s, that’s wrong, you’re wrong, pure expletives sprinkled in there to my therapist about how wrong she is. And you know, but that denial kind of allowed me to get to that point where we’re actually was in crisis mode. And my wife was the one that kind of caught on to it becoming more reclusive, and calling off work a lot more frequently. And, you know, real lethargic and things of that nature. So she started making some phone calls. There’s an organization in Illinois, it’s called the Illinois firefighter peer support group. And they’re basically designed to help firefighters that are having problems with their mental health or with basically anything just in their lives and they’re there to be someone to talk to are shoulder to cry on a go between to help get get help set up. So my wife reached out to them and, and they it’s not hyperbole to say that they quite literally saved my life. I didn’t admit it at the time, but I was having suicidal ideation. And it was just like one of those things where I felt like at the point where I was I was too burdensome to to everyone.  Excuse me, super water. So that’s kind of where I was where I was spiraling down to Fortunately, I have an amazing support system in my family and my wife was able to recognize it and kind of intervene. And I got set up with a facility in Maryland. And it’s called the Center of Excellence. And it’s exclusively for firefighters that are struggling with addiction and or mental health. And it was very appealing to me, because I didn’t, it made me feel less alone, knowing that there were other other firefighters, because at this point, I’m still very, very much have a self stigma about this, I didn’t want anybody to know what I was going through. I didn’t want, I didn’t want to tell anyone, you know, this was like my mind dirty little secret that I was trying to keep from the world. Because while I openly spoke, and the stigma, you know, mental health matters, until it actually affected me, I didn’t realize that I truly did have a stigma about it.


So going to a place where I knew people would have somewhat similar stories helped me kind of accept what was happening and, and be a little bit more okay with it, and helped me open up more about it. And sitting and listening to the stories of the others made it easier for me to share. And so that’s kind of where this all started, I came back from the center, after 30 days inpatient treatment there and started going back to work. And I made a point to go around and talk to all the crews individually, because I wanted everyone to know kind of what I’ve been through. And because I thought it would help me to just talk about it instead of you know, I was concerned that it’d be, you know, whispers in the shadows as I walked by kind of thing, and I just wanted to get the air open, Hey, everybody, this is what I went through this or I’m out with it, let’s have a conversation. And what started to happen, was after I’d have those conversations with the crews, one or two guys have pulled me aside afterwards, hey, thanks for sharing this. I’ve been dealing with this. And, you know, almost every single crew that I talked to at least one person would do that. And that’s like, when the light bulb went off for me, I need to talk about this, I need to I need, people need to hear this. There are so many people that are dealing with this that don’t feel like they have an avenue to talk to people. So the more I talk about this, the more people are going to feel comfortable talking about it. And whether that’s openly publicly, like I have been or simply just a, you know, a direct message, hey, you know, I’m, I’m struggling with this, and I appreciate you sharing. It’s been really powerful. And so I kind of feel like the more I share, it’s mutually beneficial. And that it’s it’s very therapeutic for me to get my story out, but it’s it’s also helping other people. So that’s kind of where all this started.

Jerry Dugan  13:21

I think a lot of people take for granted that, you know, working as a firefighter is not just posing for calendars, and taking kittens out of trees, you see some really gruesome things, all kinds of things. And you know, this is just part of an average shift kind of thing. And one of the reasons why I definitely wanted to have you on is because I’m part of a backpacking group. And one of the folks in the moderation group, yeah, he is a firefighter. And he shared with me, I’m not gonna give his name out or anything, but just like it did when he I just met the guy on this camping trip. And he’s sharing with me, you know, his struggle with PTSD. And his particular department was a smaller department, but it overall had this like stigma type of view over PTSD and the firefighters who struggle with it, where there was already an established culture that if you have it, we let you go. Yeah, because we don’t have ties here. Yeah, it’s just easier to let you go and let you deal with your problem while we, we keep our group intact and healthy. And here’s this, you know, firefighter who’s been in that department for years now struggling with it in a big way. And he doesn’t want to tell anybody because there’s a long history of if you’ve got it, we let you go. And they just let a guy go. Like we were and so now he doesn’t know what to do, but he’s having a conversation with his fire captain and he blurts something out that’s very uncharacteristic for himself. And this was like a big turning point, not just for him, but for that whole department was key in that Captain, I guess had been friends for decades and work together for a long time. And the captain immediately recognized, that’s not him, something’s going on. And he had a conversation with the guy offline away from everybody else away from work, you know, anything, you get heated. And that’s when the captain realized that this firefighter was also struggling in the same way that they just happened to have gotten a new fire chief. And the captain said, I need to bring him in, because we need to get more help for you. And turns out this fire chief had just earned a get a graduate degree in. I don’t know if it’s not in firefighting, but it was along the lines of leading public public health or public administration. But his thesis was around increasing help for firefighters around PTSD. And I was just lucky, I mean, just lucky that this new guy came in, he sees the need, he knows there’s a need, and he just happened to be one of the leading authorities on it, and, and got help. And so anyway, the work you’re doing is huge to also raise that awareness. And you recently did an event called run for our lives. Can you tell us more about that?


Yeah. So sometime between getting back from the center, and in May, and I think it’s probably all started, the planning phases probably started in July and August, the, the thought came back to me that I need to somehow pay back what what the LA firefighter peer support did for me, and I’m a runner by nature. So the idea popped into my head that I’m going to do a fundraiser for oni firefighter peer support. And I think I’m gonna run, I think I’m gonna run a kilometer for every firefighter that dies by suicide. And so that’s kind of where it was born. And it evolved from just me doing it too. We turned it into a virtual event. The timing was, was uncanny in that we started this virtual event before COVID-19 Shut the world down. So we were kind of, I don’t mean to brag, but we were we were doing virtual runs before it was cool.

Brandon Cunningham  17:25

Let’s go play. I’ve done a number of those since. Yeah, I’ve never done either.


Yeah. So we set that up. And between that and different sponsorships, I was able to, we were we excuse me, we were able to raise just shy of $20,000 for the Illinois firefighter peer support group, which is completely funded by donations. So I was I was ecstatic about it. When, when I sat down with the committee, that I put together to kind of talk this thing out, I thought, you know, what, shoot for 5000 hours, it sounds big, but I think we can do it. And they all kind of talked me into 10,000 10,000 is the number you need to go for. And we eclipsed that within a month of of opening our event. So it was I think it was a combination of an easy cause to get behind. And the community just kind of needing something good to root for. So it was it was kind of serendipitous, and the timing. Yeah, yeah,

Jerry Dugan  18:31

I remember seeing it on Facebook, when you were, I think you were wrapping up the last mile or so. And there’s a video clip on on your wall for that. And in the in the Facebook group that is raising awareness on this. And it just blew my mind. It wasn’t a small number of the distance ran either. What was the total distance that you


will end up I ended up being at point seven miles.

Brandon Cunningham  18:56

So what made you do a kilometer instead of a mile forever?


If I’m being honest, I didn’t know if I could do a mile for everyone. I didn’t know what the number was going to be. But I knew it was going to be over 100 last year was an unfortunate, unfortunately high year it’s typically between 110 and 115. Firefighters that die by suicide, firefighters and EMS personnel that in the southwest suicide across the US are just in Illinois. Yeah, across the country. Still,

Jerry Dugan  19:31

it’s a big number. Yeah, it is.


It is one every three days. And unfortunately, well I shouldn’t say unfortunately the fire service is deep and tradition. But that also comes with some bad traditions. And historically, we don’t do a real great job with mental health. Firefighters tend to internalize things and you know we’re alive have alpha personalities and don’t accept help very easily. So we’ve turned to maladaptive coping mechanisms and and that leads us down bad paths. But there is there is a trend now that’s starting to turn, just as you said, that Chief of your of your friend, people are becoming more aware of this, and it’s becoming more acceptable to talk about, and the fire union opening up that Center in Maryland, I think was a huge step in the right direction. Because it makes it nationally recognized, you know, it’s not just a little corner of the country that’s starting to get behind this, it’s, you can come from anywhere in the country to get help. And that’s, I think, huge.

Jerry Dugan  20:49

Yeah, the good news is that there’s this place in Maryland that is set up just for this. The bad news is, you got to go all the way to Maryland to get

Brandon Cunningham  20:58

good and crabcakes be killing me.


Defend the food wasn’t bad, but you, you weren’t really allowed off campus very often, like why it was like a once a week day trip?

Brandon Cunningham  21:09

Well, I think what’s important about what you’re doing too, is is, you know, we talk a lot about raising awareness, but from a from a male standpoint, and a firefighter is kind of that, you know, alpha male, and we want them to be that way, and we love that. But we also need the ability to say, Hey, I’m, I’m struggling, I’m, I’m not doing okay, at home, or, you know, with my kids or my job, or whatever it is. And we’re trying to take that stigma away, where you can raise your hand and just say, you know, I don’t have this, I, you know, I always make the analogy, if you’re carrying something. I’m usually like, oh, man, I’m about to drop this. But you don’t want to be the one that says you can’t keep going. And we need to change that mentality to be able to go, you know, what, I need a break. I’m, I know, you think everything’s perfect in my life, but, and I don’t want to go into everything. But I feel like it’s all about to cave in on me. And if we don’t open that opportunity, we’re going to continue to have the level of suicide that we do now. Because it seems like the easiest answer, and my brother committed suicide a little over 15 years ago, but digging into it and learning about what causes it and the thought process and those kinds of things. The main kind of determining factor is a sense of hopelessness. There’s not anybody, I could say, hey, Jerry, I need you to come to my house right now. And you know, and get that help that we need. And we got to be that, and I love what you’re doing, because you’re trying to be that, at the same time, raise awareness that we all need to be that if somebody asked, we got to move,


I think there needs to be a shift in definition of strength. Because we typically look at someone that strong as a person that can shoulder the world’s troubles. But I tend to think the person that’s strong is the one that can acknowledge that they do need help and to be vulnerable. There’s strength and vulnerability, and that’s hard to admit it took me several months. And I still wrestle sometimes to be to be quite frank. Oh, yeah. But if it’s true, there’s there’s a strength to showing your weakness to everyone.

Brandon Cunningham  23:28

Yeah, it’s very easy to, to not ask, where it’s very hard to just get past that point of, hey, I need a little help over here.


Yeah, and accepting it being okay with saying yes, when someone offers it, that was also a struggle for me, right.

Brandon Cunningham  23:49

I talk a lot about when somebody offers help. And you say, No, you’re really turning down their opportunity to bless you. You know, it’s easy to say, oh, no, I got this. Don’t worry about it. You know, and I know you got things going on in your life. So you coming over to help me is a burden, and I don’t want to be that burden. But you’re taking away their opportunity to really bless your life. And to experience something with you as just as much as you know, when we give somebody money or help or just do something for them how good we feel we’re taking that away from them. But not the only one. Yes. Yeah, that’s good. I like that. And I’m the I’m totally being a hypocrite here because there’s still things in my life that I’m like, oh, no, I got this, you know, but as I’m getting older, and I’m in really good shape and physically capable of doing things, but there’s a planner that we have at our house that I need to move and there’s just no way for me to move at myself. So I have fortunately I have Borsa and so I can always ask one of them to come help me but asking them is is weird because you’re like I’m the dad and I need you to come help me move something but they enjoy doing things for me because it’s like, oh, my dad’s asking me to do something that’s kind of cool. And it can’t be too much or too hot. They’ll complain about it. But you know, just knowing I could probably do it. But I’d probably be at the chiropractor for a week and billing bad for a week, or I could just ask for help. And there’s no shame in that that’s true strength to say, I need men around me to help me move forward in whatever that is.


Yeah, definitely.

Brandon Cunningham  25:31

So how did you get into running? You said, You’ve been a runner for a really long time, or?


Yeah, I actually, it’s funny, I hated running until the army, and then I just kind of learned to deal with it and kind of started to like it a little bit and just kept doing it. After I got back. It was mostly, but mostly do five K’s and then occasional 10k. And then I had a friend invited me to go run in a forest preserve nearby that has a pretty expansive trail system. And the group that runs there, run ultra marathons. So I started running with them occasionally, and just slowly but surely the bug bit and I started running ultra marathons. I haven’t looked back,

Jerry Dugan  26:15

and we’ve had another guest who runs those way back, Davidson young,

Brandon Cunningham  26:19

ultra marathon people are just the strangest people on the planet. I love to run it’s true. Level of weird people. I’m like, really? 20 miles, 30 miles, 50 miles,

Jerry Dugan  26:31

okay, it’s because you and I have a short attention span.

Brandon Cunningham  26:35

I can’t even fathom it by the end of a 5k. And

Jerry Dugan  26:37

I’m like, my mind is on like lunch and tomorrow’s breakfast. And oh, look at that. That’s a cool looking car. And I don’t even like cars. But like, hey, when when we get cloud coverage, that’s pretty cool. It’s like, are we done with this run yet? I’m kind of kind of tired of this, like, like, my body’s fine. But my mind is one


of my favorite things about Ultra running is There’s snacks, your snacks at every race, you’re encouraged to bring your own snacks. So I mean, that really meet Mary’s two of my favorite things in running and snack. So well, like a perfect marriage

Jerry Dugan  27:09

just changes things for me, I might I might do

Brandon Cunningham  27:10

this. All the time. The biggest reason I run is because I want to be able to eat whatever I want to eat. And by running, I can justify some of the jokes that I eat. So tell us a little bit about the 130 Kilometer like how long did that take you? What what was kind of the thing that you thought was going to happen? That didn’t happen? Or maybe how Yeah, about it when you were done?


Yeah, definitely, it took me I think a shade over 21 hours, my hope was that I was going to be able to finish it around 19. But that’s not how it played out. It really went fairly smooth. In regards to my, like physical shape, I didn’t really break down. And that’s kind of I think, what hurt me was that in my head, I was expecting like this catastrophic meltdown at some point that I would have to like steel myself to break through and then it’d be smooth sailing again. Because that’s not how it happened at all. It just kind of crept in so slowly and seductively that I didn’t notice that I was walking way more than I should have and you know, are just like the angel and devil on my shoulders, the devil kept whispering, you can walk this miles, it’s totally fine, just keep going. And it the last 20 Miles took me a lot longer than it should have. First 60 went pretty smooth, though. It was a one of the things that I found early on. I started it at midnight. So it was dark. And the trail that I run on is covered with woods on either side. And it was pretty boring. And I kept finding myself thinking about points ahead of me in the trail, because I had trained on that trail system for the whole build up to it. So I knew fairly well. And I would think things like well, I shouldn’t be to this fountain by Now why am I not at this fountain and then I could feel like it’s starting to put me in like his dark place because I’m, I’m not where I think I should be. And once I caught myself doing that, I was able to just stay in the mail that I was saying and be kind of present with it. And he’s got a lot of time to think while you’re running this long. So I kind of I kind of related it to my life in that I need to be present, you know, you’ve got something on the horizon that you’re focusing on. You’re missing everything that’s happening right now. And so that’s kind of been one of my, one of my mantras is, is just being as present as I possibly can And and focusing on today.

Brandon Cunningham  30:03

That to me is the hardest part about running is just being present enjoying it. And I like to listen to podcast and stuff like that. But I also like especially trail running, you can just really get caught up in your own mind and, and be present there but you can start worrying about the miles and time and stuff like that. So once you’ve finished the whole 21 hours, how long did it take you to get back to the point where you felt comfortable again?


Surprisingly, not as long as I thought it would. That night was pretty rough. The next day was pretty rough. I woke up. So the run was a Friday into Saturday, I woke up Monday morning. And like kind of braced myself to get up out of bed expecting pain, and there wasn’t any. I was like, okay, so I went out in the yard and kind of jogged around a little bit and went for a few walks. And I ran five miles the next day, I felt I felt pretty good. Wow, that’s really good. Yeah. That probably means I should have pushed myself hard.

Brandon Cunningham  31:11

pace up. Come on. Yeah. When he won our

Jerry Dugan  31:13

army thinking right there.

Brandon Cunningham  31:16

Exactly. If it didn’t kill me, then I should have done it harder. Exactly. So what’s next for you? What What kind of thing do you have coming up that you want people to know about? Or you’re just really passionate about that you want to tackle neck?


Well, I we’re about getting it. It’s hard to believe we’re about getting to the point where I need to start planning for run for our lives. Volume Two. I intend on doing it again. It was such a such a success. And I’m toying with the idea of going two miles this year. Nothing official. We’re, that’s still kicking that one around. But yeah, that’s probably going to be the next the next big thing. I’m doing a virtual run right now. But there’s no good cause behind that. It’s just to feed my own ego.

Brandon Cunningham  32:16

That’s good. Yeah,


yeah. But yeah, so run for Alliance 2020. Or shoot me 2021. Will planning will probably be starting in earnest. mid August, or probably late August, at the latest.

Brandon Cunningham  32:33

Awesome. Well, I will definitely have to make sure that’s in the show notes. But maybe will participate in some way. I don’t know about 100 plus miles. But if we get like all mine to do it, we could pull that off. That wouldn’t be that big a deal. But we’ll definitely put that in the show notes. If people want to get a hold of you and maybe support your cause or just learn more about you or have you come speak? What’s the best way to do that?


We have a Facebook page. It’s run for our lives. We we have a Instagram page as well. Same same name. We don’t currently have a website, that’s something we’re working on. So either those the Facebook group or, or the Instagram page. There, we’re both pretty react or we’re pretty reactive to both.

Brandon Cunningham  33:23

Okay, great. If people want to just stop by and say hi, what’s your home address that come to knock on the door?

Jerry Dugan  33:30

No one’s done it yet. Don’t do it.


I’m in Huntley, Illinois, if they’re in Huntley, Illinois, shoot me a message and I’m always down for coffee.

Brandon Cunningham  33:39

There you go. So you gotta gotta introduce yourself. Don’t just show up at people’s front door. I learned that lesson. Renee Zellweger taught me that. Restraining orders and yeah, now I know. I didn’t know.

Jerry Dugan  33:54

You know, my son, Jacob. Uh, you probably last saw him when he was like a baby. He’s like, Yeah, he’s, yeah, he’s gonna be 19 And like, 19 days. Holy moly. Anyway, he was in Chicago in the Chicago area. Just about a month ago.

Brandon Cunningham  34:12

Wow. There’s a there’s a pandemic was too late to tell

Jerry Dugan  34:15

him now. But he should have given you a call and


yeah, definitely. Yeah. It’s time to be in Chicago. You don’t want to be in here in December through April.

Brandon Cunningham  34:25

Yeah. I’ve been there in June and went to a baseball game. Went to a Cubs game. And it was cold. It’s like you leave South Texas. It’s like 90 and that night at the game. Everybody’s got jackets. Well, not the people from Chicago but we got jackets

Jerry Dugan  34:42

on. You can imagine that you’re from Texas.

Brandon Cunningham  34:45

Real Chicago. People are in shorts and T shirt. Like summer.

Jerry Dugan  34:49

We’re in for Parkins and Ryan, it’s been a pleasure to get to connect with you and have you on here is been an honor and to share this Message and the the work you’re doing to raise awareness is just huge. So Well,


thank you. I appreciate you guys giving me the opportunity to kind of champion my cause. And I like yeah, thank you. I can’t thank you enough. Yeah, absolutely.

Brandon Cunningham  35:15

We love what you’re doing. And hopefully, with a lot of success, you will be running less miles every year that that number will go down. Even be better that you know, you run no miles, we just can’t stop this thing. I’d be okay with that. Yeah, exactly. Anything we can do to support you though, we’re going to do and we’re gonna just put all that in the show notes. If you want to get behind that or you know, a firefighter or first responder that could use this. Just just the message getting in to your firehouse or your group is important. So reach out, get in touch with Brian and see how maybe you could help save a life literally, by just making a connection, you could really help somebody start that conversation. So be sure and check out the show notes. Get in touch with Ryan and find out how you can help and get involved.

Jerry Dugan  36:11

If you like everything you heard in this episode, be sure to check out the show notes at beyond the rut.com/ 230. There you’ll find a link to the facebook group page run for our lives, as well as the Illinois firefighter Support Group website that Ryan mentions in this conversation. Also, we’ll have some other resources available to you that talk about PTSD among first responders, rates of suicide rates of depression and so on. Now, we’re so glad that you joined us this weekend, the best way you can show your support for us is to share us with a friend, a family member, a co worker or that neighbor across the street, you probably know a firefighter, maybe they want to share this with their fellow firefighters. Do that raise awareness, get this message out there so that others can end the stigma of PTSD among firefighters. Now with that said, Until next week, go live life beyond the rat race.


Have you ever looked at a leader and thought they clearly have it all together? They couldn’t possibly understand the challenges the average person goes through? How did they get so fired off about their life and business? The power of investing in people podcast shares the real behind the scenes stories of the most inspiring business and military leaders of today. Most of them have experienced the muck and the yuck of hard times. However, they still invested in themselves and then that investment naturally overflows by igniting a spark of hope onto the people around them. I am your host che sparks fearless communicator and I share my own trauma to treasure stories that will leave you fired up and ready to take fearless action and invest in yourself. I invite you to listen like follow and share the power of investing in people podcast on your favorite podcast platform. This podcast is a proud member of the Lima Charlie Network.