Merritt’s Darius Sam has used a 100 mile distance to potentially change a countless number of lives.
Sam has completed his goal of running 100 miles non-stop to raise funds and awareness for men’s mental health and addiction resources in his community.
Sam hit the 100-mile mark Sunday (Dec. 6) physically exhausted but in high spirits after beginning his gruelling trek Saturday morning.
It was the 20-year-old’s second attempt at the 100-mile feat. In June, he pledged to run 100 miles in 24 hours to raise money for his local food bank but had to call off the run 11 miles short of his goal after he was briefly hospitalized for dehydration. Despite not hitting the 100-mile mark in his first attempt, Sam still raised over $100,000 for the Nicola Valley Food Bank.
|Sam had plenty of support from friends and strangers in Merritt during his 100-mile ultra-marathon that began Saturday, Dec. 6.(Contributed)
For his second attempt, Sam once again picked a worthy cause, dedicating the run to raise money to create a free men’s mental health and addictions counselling program at Nicola Valley Family Therapy.
The difference between his June attempt and now came down to physical preparedness and determination.
This time Sam’s team was prepared with plenty of water, nutrient gel packs, extra clothing and a vehicle to warm up in during night-time pit stops. Sam had also trained harder than ever and dedicated himself to proper nutrition, but ultimately it was his own sheer will-power that got him through the final push.
Sam departed from the Nicola Lake boat launch at 8 a.m. Saturday, and completed the run Sunday around 4:30 p.m. Sam began to think 100 miles was once again going get the better of him multiple times throughout the 32-hour ultra-marathon.
“Around the 60-mile mark it started to get cold and in my head I thought there was no way I could pull this off,” Sam said. “Instead of getting emotional I decided to step back and take a little break to regroup and re-adjust my plan.
“Instead of looking at it like ‘oh I still have 40 miles to go’ I started to think ‘maybe we can just get to the next pit-stop, just get to the next telephone pole’ I just kept my head down and kept chipping away.”
Around the 90 mile mark Sam hit another mental road-block. Physically battered, he began to doubt he’d be able to complete the run and started to emotionally break down.
“My tendons were inflamed, I had disgusting blisters. I felt like I had no mobility in my left ankle, I thought ‘this is impossible man, I don’t know how I’m going to do this.’ I started crying and got really, really emotional.”
At that point, Sam thought he had given it everything he had. But after another mental reset, Sam dug deep and found an extra gear he didn’t know he had, finishing the final 10 miles at a pace faster than he’d ever hit before.
“Once I thought I could not take another step further that’s when I started to perform my best.”
On top of training harder and longer, eating smarter and paying more attention to hydration, Sam attributes a lot of his success to his good friend and trainer, Mark Nendick.
Nendick ran 55 miles alongside Sam and was there the whole way for emotional support, never giving Sam the option of quitting.
|Battered, bruised and physically exhausted, Sam completed the 100-mile run with friends and family waiting at Nicola Lake boat launch. He said his body is still recovering four days after the ultra-marathon. (Contributed)
Raising funds for men’s mental health and addictions counselling is a cause that hits close to home for both Sam and Nendick.
“I grew up in an adopted home because of addiction, I’ve lost a few family members to addiction, I’ve lost friendships… and I’m sure a lot of people can relate,” Sam previously told the Western News. “Every person I know at least knows one person that’s in addiction and it impacts them in some way.”
So far, Sam’s GoFundMe campaign for a men’s mental health and addictions counselling program at Nicola Valley Family Therapy has raised over $10,000.
Sam had originally planned the run with the intention to raise awareness about addiction and mental health issues, but he quickly decided he might as well raise money for the cause too.
“I’d received emails from people inside and outside the community asking why I would put myself through absolute hell to raise awareness when I could raise money for a good cause as well,” he said.
This inspired Sam to reach out to Nicola Valley Family Therapy. The non-profit counselling and therapy centre told Sam that many men who would like to access therapy to improve their mental health and/or resolve addiction issues either can’t afford or struggle to afford the help they need.
“There was no way I wasn’t going to step in and try to do whatever I can once I learned that,” Sam said. “It’s more of a personal thing for me. Growing up I had support and I needed support to succeed.
“I was seeing a counsellor and I seek emotional therapy. I would say it’s played a part into my success of who I am today.
“If people aren’t able to afford that, why wouldn’t I do something about it?”
The funds raised through Sam’s GoFundMe are being used to create a men’s therapy program in Merritt where men who can’t afford therapy can access services without paying a dime.
Since the GoFundMe was started at least one person has already been able to access therapy at Nicola Valley Family Therapy free of charge.
“Just that one person who’s been able to use the counselling services… for me it’s life-changing… it’s hard to put into words,” said an audibly emotional Sam.
Nicola Valley Family Therapy executive director Sheri Bishop said she’s beyond grateful for Sam and everyone who has contributed to the campaign as men’s therapy programs often lack funds.
“We meet people every day who have turned to substances and/or engaged in addictive behaviours to cope with the pain of unhealed trauma and emotional loss,” Sherri said. “Our number one goal is be accessible to all; however, trauma counselling services for men have traditionally been underfunded, leaving men responsible for paying out of pocket for much-needed services.
“We are so touched by the generosity of every single person who has donated.”
In addition to the free men’s counseling program, Nicola Valley Family Therapy also plans to use funds raised to hire an additional trained male counsellor.
While Sam has completed his 100-mile mission, he’s still hoping to boost the fundraising total.
Contributions to the men’s counselling program can be made through his GoFundMe campaign.
A feature-length documentary on Sam and his determination to help others through running is now in the works with an anticipated release date of Spring/early Summer 2021.