Toronto man will run 10 half-marathons to show mental health benefits of exercise

A Toronto man who wants to show how exercise can lead the way to better mental health is aiming to run 10 half-marathons in 10 Canadian cities this summer.

After sinking into major depression, this man turned to exercise

Jacob Morris says he ran for better mental health after sinking into a depression about a year ago. He started with walks at lunch, progressed to slight jogging, worked his way to half-marathons.

A Toronto man who wants to show how exercise can lead the way to better mental health is aiming to run 10 half-marathons in 10 Canadian cities this summer. 

Jacob Morris, 25, a freelance video producer, told Metro Morning he will film a documentary of his efforts in the hopes of spreading awareness about depression and anxiety and inspiring other people suffering from mental health issues.

"I want this to be purely uplifting," he said. "I'm someone who has suffered in the past, I may suffer in the future. I'm doing this now for people who may be going through something similar."

Morris has raised $2,140 towards his goal of $8,500. The money will cover the costs of the documentary and will raise funds for Toronto's Centre for Mental Health and Addiction.

The campaign, "Run to Wellness," is scheduled from mid-June to mid-July. Morris will run solo in many of the half-marathons, which are not official runs.

The 21.1 kilometre runs will take place in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Halifax, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City and his hometown of Kitchener-Waterloo.

Morris will run 211 kilometres in all in 30 days.

"Running is about 30 per cent physical and 70 per cent is the mental toughness it takes to say, 'I'm not going to give up and I'm going to keep going and power through this.' It's about taking on a huge physical challenge that I'm confident I will be able to complete."
 
"Everyone, when they hear about this, they say, 'you're crazy.' Yeah, that's kind of why I'm doing this."

Downward spiral

A year ago, Morris sank into a major depression. He went from being optimistic and energetic to being unable to get out of bed. He neglected himself, lost touch with friends and fell into a slow, downward spiral. 

"Day to day, about this time last year, I was dealing with severe anxiety and depression. When you have these types of issues, everything feels like a weight on you. You are in a dense cloud, kind of floating through life. I was waking up almost every night, having a panic attack," he said.

"I started withdrawing from family and friends. I was not in a good place."

To make changes in his life, Morris did a Google search and read that physical exercise can ease depression and anxiety. And so, he began walking at lunch. He progressed to slight jogging. From there, he worked his way to half-marathons.

"Absolutely, it wasn't easy," he said. 

Morris decided to to quit his full-time job and focus on doing things that he was passionate about. He also decided to be upfront with family and friends about his depression and anxiety. "That was a game changer," he said.

Now, he wants to help others. He said getting ready for the campaign involves a lot of intense training.

"It's something that you're at every day."