On September 16th and 17th, I ran the NorthCoast 24-Hour Endurance Run for the second consecutive year, completing 76 miles – the equivalent of 3 marathons in a row. As was the case last year, I was again surrounded by supportive friends, training partners from the running community, and fellow survivors, all of whom kept me going through the blistering heat of the day and the lonely darkness of the night. It was again a humbling but incredibly fulfilling experience to undertake something so difficult in order to support child survivors of sexual abuse.
Having run this 24-hour race last year, I had learned a few things that made the challenges of such a difficult event more predictable the second time around – things like knowing how often to stop and walk, how often to change my socks and shoes, how often to ice my legs, when to eat, etc. I knew what to expect, so I knew better how to prepare for and lessen as much as possible the pain and strain I was putting my body through.
As I did this – as I put into action the things I had learned in order to minimize the pain – it occurred to me that I and all survivors are experts at doing exactly this. We learned, many of us as children long ago, how to shut off our minds, our bodies, or both in order to survive the abuse. We learned how to endure the horror so that it would not consume us completely.
It’s one thing for a grown man who has trained to run long distances to prepare for the unique pain of a 24-hour endurance race. It’s another thing entirely for an innocent child to have to learn on his own how to navigate the pain, humiliation, and confusion of sexual abuse. No child should have to do that. Sexual abuse should never be something a child must get used to. Ever.
There are easier ways of raising awareness and funds for child survivors. Choosing something as difficult as a 24-hour endurance race doesn’t make my mission to protect children any stronger or more impressive. What it does is remind those who observe the race – even those of us running the race – that while running for 24 hours in a row might not be common, the sexual abuse of innocent children is sadly all too common and far more painful.
So my message is this: don’t be impressed with me. Don’t watch me in awe and wonder how I can do it. Be impressed with the millions of children in the world who are being raped repeatedly and yet have the strength to survive. Look upon them in awe and then do something to ensure that they are never raped again.
I was prepared for my 76 miles and it still hurt. No matter how well a child prepares herself for the next rape she must endure, it will still hurt. She doesn’t have a choice, but you do. Will you save her?