"Call Me Crazy" 5K Challenge

$1,700 of $1,600 goal

Raised by 52 people in 73 months
Am I crazy? Maybe I am.

I've decided to run a 5K (3.1 miles) every weekend in September to say goodbye to 31 and ring in my 32nd year, and I'm going to support some great causes while I'm at it. And if 4 5Ks wasn't enough, I'm kicking it off with a 7K obstacle course for good measure. (I warned you it might be crazy!)

In addition to participating in runs that support important causes, I'm also raising funds to support the cause that's closest to my heart: mental health. Mental illness has been significant to me, both personally and professionally, and I want to increase awareness of the importance of mental health, reduce stigma around getting help, and support an organization that works to do these things as well. I'm excited to be partnering with NØSTIGMAS, an amazing organization dedicated to redefining mental health and erasing the stigmas around suicide and mental illness. September is a big month for them, too, as they are launching new programs and initiatives!

But why? Why give to this cause? Why run all these races?


I've always hated running. Always. I think it goes back to the first time I had to run a mile in my high school gym class when I finished second-to-last in 15 minutes. I've never been an athlete or anything even close to one (unless you count "tripping" or "getting bizarre, accidental injuries" as sports). Over the years, I've dabbled in various exercise fads or DVDs for a few weeks at a time, and eventually I settled on the occasional (read: "rare") yoga class as my fitness routine.

Fast forward a few years...after accumulating several years of stress from grad school, a career change, being unemployed, an exceptionally demanding and sometimes traumatic job, and just general day-to-day life, I started feeling the effects of all that unmanaged stress. I felt drained in every sense of the word and was experiencing numerous physical and mental symptoms.

After seeing my doctor and ruling out several other possibilities, I realized that I was suffering from burn out. And yes, that is an actual "thing" with very real symptoms. I also realized that everyone who had preached to me about self-care wasn't kidding and that I could no longer be educating others about stress management with a "do as I say, not as I do" approach. As I started working to reduce and address the stress, I realized that developing an actual fitness routine would be beneficial to restoring some balance to my physical and mental wellbeing.

So, a few years after that fateful gym class (ok, about 17 years later), my husband and I joined a gym, and I started working with a personal trainer in March of this year. She asked me what goal I wanted to work toward, and I said I wanted to be able to run a mile, without stopping, in less than 15 minutes.

Well, in my first session, she made me run a half mile. I was huffing and puffing and thought for sure I might pass out, but I didn't.

And then, before my second session with her, I ran 1 mile on my own, in 10:30. When I saw her again and told her, she asked how I felt when I did it.

I said, "Sick." She laughed. I didn't. But I kept on running.

Then she suggested I do a 5K. I laughed. She didn't. So I signed up.

I trained, and on July 18, I ran my first 5K...with a minor foot injury and in 90 degree heat with ridiculous humidity. And about 15 minutes after finishing in 34:46, I was thinking, "That was BRUTAL!....When can I do it again?"

I've come to realize that while running is physically challenging, I the biggest challenge for me is mental. The negative thoughts are always there, trying to talk me out of running, rationalizing that I deserve to relax. While running, about a half mile in, I often start to hear a little voice say, "Why are you doing this?...You don't need to do this....You can stop...You just ran yesterday..." But I've learn to combat that voice with "I want to do this...I can do this...I have done this!...When I finish I will feel great!" And I always do.

After my first 5K, I started looking for more races, but I decided to wait awhile to let the worst of the summer heat run its course (pun intended). I started targeting September, and thought it might be fun to do run for my birthday. Then friends started asking me about doing races with them. Then I had an idea...which turned into a goal...which may be crazy...but I can handle crazy...(I'm a professional counselor, after all...) And so the "Call Me Crazy" 5K Challenge was born.


Here are my challenge races:

August 31 - Badass Dash 7K - benefiting Autism Speaks
September 7 - Run Against Traffick - benefiting Traffick Free
September 15 - Bucktown 5K - benefiting Gilda's Club
September 22 - Zoo Run Run - benefiting the Chicago Zoological Society
September 28 - AIDS Run & Walk - benefiting the AIDS Foundation of Chicago
October 20 - Monster Dash 10K !!

My goal is to raise $1600 for NØSTIGMAS. I consider this fundraising goal a big challenge in and of itself, but I know we can make this happen! I will handle the running, but I need your support to reach this goal! This money will enable NØSTIGMAS to build their Online Wellness Center, develop their 1-on-1 Peer Support Program, and expand their directory of free/low-cost mental health services.

Please consider supporting us if you:

-have or know someone who has a mental health condition

-want to challenge/promise yourself to get support with a mental health issue

-have lost someone to a mental health-related or fitness-related health condition

-have experienced the mental or physical benefits of running or a regular exercise routine

-want to challenge/promise yourself to start a fitness routine

-understand that wellness includes physical, mental and emotional health

-feel like supporting a mental health professional/aspiring runner

-want to wish me a happy birthday!

You may also support me by cheering me on as I train and run these races...or you could join me for the race that supports your favorite cause!

Whatever you decide, thanks in advance for your support of my efforts and of NØSTIGMAS!
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Guess what?! We've SURPASSED my goal! We have raised $1620 for NoStigmas! (Why stop here? I'll leave this page open in case there are any last minute gifts or procrastinators out there!)

In the last 2 months, 48 people have donated to this cause and made this goal a reality, and I am so humbled and grateful for everyone's support! Thank you all for rallying around this cause which I am so passionate about and is so incredibly important to me. Depending on the research, it's estimated that 1 in 4 or 1 in 5 people have a mental illness and that HALF of all adults will develop one at some point in their lifetime. Despite how prevalent these conditions are, mental health services are not always prioritized or available, and the stigma associated with these issues mean that mental wellness isn't talked about as much as physical wellness. My goal is the change that.

I'm excited to see a positive shift in the mental health field that includes a more holistic approach and is focused on overall wellness as a way to address mental illness. This is so necessary because you really can't separate your mind, body and emotions, meaning all of them need attention in order for a person to become truly well. Although I've known and experienced this to some degree in the past, I have rediscovered this and experienced this in new ways since starting this challenge.

Depending on how you look at it, this challenge came at either a really great or really awful time for me since I have had a lot of stress and transition lately, and both are triggers for anxiety and depression. Thankfully, I'm aware of my triggers and have a solid plan for how to manage them. However, the regular physical activity has honestly made this season of change much, much easier and smoother than similar seasons I've gone through in the past. Like a lot of people, I've had several brief periods of half-hearted attempts to "get fit" or "work out", but this time was different. I tapped into something powerful, and what started as a physical activity became a mental, emotional, and spiritual one as well. Everyone's journey is different, and everyone needs to find the activities and balance that work for them, but I think running will now be part of my wellness plan indefinitely.

Thank you to everyone who has come along side me on my journey and supported me with encouraging words, given donations for my campaign, or run along side me in a race. I am truly, truly moved by the outpouring of kindness and generosity I've experienced from family, friends, colleagues and even strangers (who I hope will become new friends!) I hope you may somehow know just how much I appreciate your support of my efforts and of NoStigmas. Thank you. xoxo
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I am exhausted. I feel like I could sleep for a week, but that race this morning was really great. Having never run the full 10K distance before today, I wasn't sure what to expect but was hoping to finish in about 1:10. After a nice nap, the results are in and I finished just ahead of my goal in 1:09:36!

It was a hard run, but thanks to some encouragement from my running buddy Corrin, I made it the whole 6.2 miles without stopping to walk. The dreaded side stitches were still there for most of the race, but I managed to keep going and pushed through to the end. There was still a pretty significant mental battle to be able to finish, and there was a lot going through my mind during the run. As I crossed the finish line, Avicii's "Wake Me Up" was playing, which has some lyrics that resonated so much that I got teary.

"All this time I was finding myself, and I didn't know I was lost."

Believe me when I say that I started from square one in March when I joined a gym. Over the past several months as I've been working out and running, I've experienced a lot of pain and a lot of growth. I laughed when my trainer Jamie first suggested in June that I run a 5K. When I agreed to do my first race, I thought it would be a one time thing and told several people that I while I "might" do another 5K at some point, I'd "never" run any race longer than that.

In the last 3 months, I've now done 5 5Ks, a 7K obstacle course, and a now a 10K. And somewhere along the way, it feels like I found myself.

I think sometimes it takes a challenge to figure out who you really are and the potential you really have. So even though it can be tempting to avoid the difficulties, struggles and pain, I think that's where clarity, strength and confidence are developed.

With a lot of support and encouragement, I've reached my running goals for this Call Me Crazy Challenge, goals which I expanded to include today's 10K. But I have one more goal which is to raise $1600 for NoStigmas and only have $300 to go. Whether you want to call it chance or fate or divine intervention, it's because of my decision to do this Challenge and to seek out a beneficiary that I came across NoStigmas. My intention was just to raise money for them, but I quickly came to see how I could do more by volunteering and getting the word out about their efforts to reduce stigmas, increase mental health literacy, and connect people with support when they need it most. Through my involvement with this amazing organization, I know and can see their potential and will continue to work to bring that to fruition. Will you join me?

In the last 2 days, we've gotten $259 from some generous supporters, which means that last $300 is in reach! Will you please consider a gift of any size to help us wrap up this Challenge and end strong? (If even half my Facebook friends gave $2, we'd surpass this goal!) If you can't give, will you share this and help spread the word? Thanks to everyone for your support! This Challenge wouldn't be a success without you!
Bibs and medals from the last 3 months!
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Tomorrow is the big day, which means yesterday was my last training run...and it was a doozie. I made it the 5.5 I set out to run, but I can't tell you how often I stopped and thought about cutting it short. Since training for this 10K, I've been having a lot of problems with side stitches (those awful sharp pains in your abdomen). It seems no matter what I try, I keep getting them for almost the entirety of my run.

Have you ever tried to run in pain? It's not fun. It's really easy to start justifying short cuts or giving up, which means that little voice kicked in yesterday. It's been awhile since I've had a visit from that little voice, which, I decided yesterday, should be called Gollum.

"You don't have to do this...It's too hard, just go back...I don't think you can do this...It hurts too much, you can just stop...What makes you think you can do this?...Why put yourself through this?...You can just go back..It hurts too much..."

But pain doesn't always mean you should stop. Pain can mean there's a problem. It can mean you're growing. Or it can mean that you just have to change something. The pain that I keep having? That's not "turn around and go back" pain.

Everyone experiences pain from time to time, and I know lots of people experience similar self-sabotaging thoughts when they push themselves outside their comfort zone. But as Neale Donald Walsch is quoted as saying:

"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone."

I'm there.

5.5 miles was out of my comfort zone, and tomorrow morning, 6.2 miles will be out of my comfort zone, but I'm feeling a lot of love and support from really great folks. Plus, I'm doing this for NoStigmas, and I'm doing this in honor of the client whose death I've written about previously. So even if the Monster Dash doesn't turn out to be so much of a "dash", there will be a finish line, and I will cross it, whether I run, jog, or crawl my way there.

This race kicks off at 9:20am, and I'm expecting to finish around 10:30am...so please send your positive energy, prayers, and good vibes my way as I wrap up this challenge tomorrow! See you at the finish line! :)
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4 days! Only 4 more days until my 10K! With everyone's amazing support, we've raised over $1000 for NoStigmas, and there is still time to raise the final $559! As I've said, I'm handling the running, but I need your support to reach this goal while I continue preparing for my final and longest race yet!

Training has been going"¦well"¦slowly. I've been really struggling with finding the time, energy, and motivation to focus on training when I have a lot happening and changing in my life right now. After a very long and stressful week, I finally dragged myself to the gym last Friday"¦almost 2 weeks after my last race and just 9 days before my 10K. I was feeling defeated, but I decided to get in a workout and run at least 3.5 miles, maybe 4, to get my self back on the wagon. As soon as I started working out, I started feeling better and more energized. And once I started running, something happened.

I'm not sure if it was the familiar playlist, or the rhythm of my feet on the treadmill, or the fact that I was the only person in the gym, but I noticed a shift. It may sound odd, but it was as though I had been somehow disconnected from my body and suddenly stepped back into myself. I started to become aware of feelings and sensations in my body (some of which definitely indicated that I hadn't run in awhile) and the cloudiness in my head started to dissipate. I felt like me again. Aware. Fast. Strong.

Before I knew it, I had run 4 miles, which is the longest stretch I'd ever run. But I still felt a ton of pent up restlessness, so I decide to push for another quarter mile. And then another. And then another. And when I reached 5 miles, I decided to stop even though I felt like I could go on forever. And I felt amazing. And then I went home and had the best sleep I've had in weeks.

Two days later, I decided to do some cross-training, so I went down to the Indiana Dunes for some hiking and lakeside yoga. Autumn is my favorite time of year, and I was feeling that pull to get out into nature. In addition to the exercise, I decided to bring my dusty camera and set aside time for quiet reflection. I found myself wondering why I feel drawn to nature when I love living in the city so much? What is it about nature that makes me feel grounded and recharged?

It might be the peace and quiet, but I can have that at home. Maybe it's because everything is so pretty, but I can also appreciate the beauty of Chicago's skyline. Then it dawned on me"¦

The city is manmade. The buildings, the cars, the streets. Unlike the city, nature was not created, designed, or assembled by man. It's powerful, vibrant, and responds to changes in the environment. Sometimes man's best efforts can't control it. It's alive, it grows, and it goes through different seasons. Whether it's biological or spiritual or both, I just feel more connected to nature. As I sat on the earth, fingers in the sand, wind in my hair, sun on my back, watching the waves crash against the shore, I felt simultaneously humbled by realizing how small I am and empowered by feeling part of something so much bigger than I am.

After several hours of soaking in the sunshine, vibrant colors, crunching leaves, and solitude, I had hiked 4.5 miles, climbed 543 feet of elevation, taken 130+ pictures, and spent time doing yoga, meditating, and praying. Physically, mentally, and emotionally I felt in balance once again, and now I'm striving to maintain that balance as I continue training for my 10K. Wish me luck, and thanks for your support!
Fall leaves
View of the lake from the dunes
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Read a Previous Update
Fatima Freeman
69 months ago

Well worth the cause.

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Jacob Moore
71 months ago

Great job Steph! This is an amazing accomplishment!!

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$1,700 of $1,600 goal

Raised by 52 people in 73 months
Created July 28, 2013
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Ted & Elsie Pollari
70 months ago
Michele Diamanti
70 months ago

Run your little heart out! I love you!

Melissa Jeddeloh
70 months ago

I'm so happy to donate to a great cause! Fabulous job!!!

Getty Images Matching Gift
70 months ago (Offline Donation)
Estela Baltazar
70 months ago (Offline Donation)
Wendy Neuert
70 months ago

Great work Steph!

Ingrid Smith
70 months ago

Reading about your journey is inspiring...and for a great cause. Go you!!

Nina Villasenor
70 months ago

Steph... because I see how much you have been working toward your goal for this run... I want to give you that little extra push of motivation =)

keidra chaney
70 months ago
Dena Saper
70 months ago
Fatima Freeman
69 months ago

Well worth the cause.

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Jacob Moore
71 months ago

Great job Steph! This is an amazing accomplishment!!

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