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Running is so much more than just running.
Photography by Renz / 361°
"Running is the best metaphor for life: Because you get what you put in it."
That's certainly true, but running is and can be much more than that: a metaphor for fighting against your mental illness, for breaking taboos and finding a way to motivate, inspire, and encourage others. This was impressively demonstrated by Anthony Horyna with his 19/19 project for the aid organization Freunde fürs Leben (Friends for Life).
World Mental Health Day
Today, the 10th of September, is World Mental Health Day, the day Anthony Horyna ends his run across Germany in Flensburg: over 1900km and 41,800 vertical meters from where he started on 28th July. Anthony has been running a marathon every day after taking off in Konstanz, whether in the rain or in the sun, whether alone or with company, and even on his birthday.
The energy of running
Anthony Horyna (45) from Wiesbaden is an ultra runner who has been on a run streak - he has run every single day for almost 4 years, never less than 5k.
Anthony does this for himself: it is his elixir, meditation, energy source, and moment of being by himself and in peace.
But at some point he understood that running has a gigantic energy, not only to change himself, but to be able to make a difference in the world.
That's how the idea for Project 19/19 came to life. In his Project 19/19 Strava Club Anthony planned his entire route across Germany and broke it down into daily marathon sized snacks. That way it allowed for friends and supporters to join him - for 1km, a day or a full week. His goal? To break the taboo surrounding suicide and depression.
"Depression is just not visible. When you break your arm everyone sees you are injured and you get help. You can’t see depression from the outside, nobody believes you are ill. I want that to be talked about."
That's why he chose to partner with Freunde fürs Leben e.V. an organization that educates people about suicide and depression, especially focused on adolescents.
Freunde fürs Leben
Anthony's journey connected him with many many fellow runners such as Marcel Jurtz, who accompanied Anthony spontaneously on the entire 26.2 miles of stage one out of the city of Konstanz. Or that in Hamburg thirty supporters welcomed him with beach flags and confetti. Who said running wasn't a team sport?
"The response was consistently positive, by fellow travelers as well as by chance acquaintances along the way. The message was immediately understood and carried forward, by each person in their very own way."
For Anthony, the encounter with himself was probably the most valuable part of his journey.
"Ultra-running often brings you very close to your own self and you can look deep inside of yourself. I could not foresee what, but I knew something going to happen with me. It could also have been that I mutate to a berserk after 20 marathons."
Instead, he ran the 45 days in his "feel-good mode", he listened to himself and his body.
"We are all able to do so much more than we think or others tell us."
Not only did Anthony prove this but so did his followers. Some of them even ran a full marathon distance for the first time!
"Through the 1919 project we created friendships, I don’t want to miss a single moment."
Anthony proved that he could run 1900km without completely physically destroying himself but more importantly he raised awareness of mental health - an issue that remains frustratingly taboo.
The idea behind the 19/19 project is to keep coming back to something, again and again and every day. It’s an athletic challenge, but also a mental one. The fight against a mental illness such as depression is just like that: every day the sufferer has to fight for themselves, their life and their recovery on so many levels, rallying strength and courage against the inner demons.
""I learned that we have to be more in the now. Because only then do we really connect with ourselves and with others. This is something that I hope I can keep up even after finishing this project."
Speaking of After
Who is Anthony without running? What will he spend his time doing now his day isn't dictated by the need to get from A to B?
"That's a good and difficult question, because running has taken such a central spot in my life. Running is what I do, even though I would not say, running is what I am. At the moment, I do not know what I am when there is no running anymore. There is also a life outside of running. We have so many individual elements, but running is a big part of it."
Through Anthony's Project 19/19 he not only inspired us but also countless runners on his way. Anthony will continue his run streak journey, day 1348 and counting…