Running for Mental Health: Cameron Balser’s Story

by Ashley Lopez

Cameron Balser is running for a purpose: mental health and mental health awareness.

Balser was diagnosed with depression at the age of 27. He describes his struggle thus far and the lack of awareness and understanding of mental illness in the following statement:

I can’t stress this enough: this is a disease like any other disease. It’s so easily looked past as if it’s something you can just snap out of. I know this personally to be far from the truth. It has almost taken my life a few times. I used to be so terrified to admit that to other people. I thought it made me weak because of society’s view, but in my eyes, it was the only way out of this unimaginable pain. It took everything that was me, away from me, and making me weak. I’m beyond thankful to still be here today. I chose to end my life, but for some reason it just wasn’t my time.

Balser started a foundation called RUNLOVERIDE. He states, “This foundation is to show that no matter what hard times may unfold in front of us, that with love, positive reinforcement, faith, and personal understanding, anything is possible.” RUNLOVERIDE focuses on mental health awareness, positivity, and support. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health Disorders, part of the National Institutes of Health:

  • Mental health disorders account for several of the top causes of disability in established market economies, such as the U.S., worldwide, and include: major depression (also called clinical depression), manic depression (also called bipolar disorder), schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
  • An estimated 26% of Americans ages 18 and older — about 1 in 4 adults — suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.
  • Most people who commit suicide have a diagnosable mental disorder — most commonly a depressive disorder or a substance abuse disorder.

When asked for more information about the RUNLOVERIDE foundation, Balser says

RUNLOVERIDE’s mission is to spread awareness on the mental health community. … There is nothing we can’t get through or a mountain that we cannot climb. We are stronger than what we believe we are. We are sometimes misguided by the darkness or lies our mind may come up with. We want you to know that anything through love is possible. We can make the change for good.

Balser and his team are competing in ultra-marathons. An ultra-marathon is anything over 26.2 miles. On February 13, 2019 Balser did his first 100 mile run which consisted of running 10 mile trails (repetitively) ten times. He completed it in 22 hours and 58 minutes, even with adverse weather. There were “high winds gusting up to 35 mph and temperatures falling to -2” Balser says. 

Shortly after that race, he attempted a 200 mile race in Pekin, Illinois at Potawatomi trail races. He was only able to complete 115 miles of the 200 miles, but even though he didn’t finish, he says he “gained a lot with DNF (did not finish), because with failure, we learn the most. I learned I could push myself further than I could ever imagine.” 

When asked why he runs, he says “I do it because it brings me internal joy and peace. It not only feeds me love, but unconditional love. Not only is it something I’m so passionate about, but it has saved my life, time and time again. It’s truly my medication for my disease.”

This year Balser will be competing in 8-9 ultra-marathons that are either 100 or 200 milers. The main reason is to help him prepare for his 2021 season. Balser and his team will be going for the world record for the most 100 miler races completed in a calendar year. Currently, the record is set at 50. Balser’s team is going for 55-60 races. That means they will have to compete a 100 mile race every weekend of the year, as well as one race per week throughout the entire year. 

Costs to do these races will be expensive. Balser’s team welcomes anyone willing to sponsor this journey for this year and next! No donation is too small. You can contact Cameron Balser directly through Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/cameron.balser.18 or send him an email at Cameronbalser@icloud.com. You may also call/text him at 765-506-7005.  

… I do believe my legs will take me to places I could never imagine, and with the love in my heart, I will be guided to show others what we can bring to one another.

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