Racing the top-level Ironman triathlon is something relatively few people on this Earth have ever attempted. Even fewer have completed.
Then there is Justin True of Bend. The 30-year-old recently did his own 3,600-mile triathlon across the country. It was a mission to raise funds and awareness for mental health.
“It’s kind of the saying of ‘How do you eat an elephant?’ And you just go bite-by-bite,” Justin said.
“I’m a vegetarian, so that’s probably isn’t very good,” he added with a chuckle.
Justin had one of the most ambitious or some might say crazy ideas to test his body, mind and spirit.
“It started out as a very small, little egg and eventually started growing, growing, growing. Now it ended up being a 3,600-mile journey across the United States.”
“I was beat growing up. Homeless at times and my dad kicking me out of the house and nowhere to go. Sleeping on park benches. Sleeping in my friends’ pool sheds and too embarrassed to tell anybody about it and talk about what was going on. My brother overdosing 15 times growing up. My mom getting stabbed.
“This isn’t what I set out to do, man. This isn’t life. I didn’t choose to be here. Why should I be here? None of us chose to be here. Why can’t I choose to quit and end it?
“So I tried. And I realized that’s not the route to go. Luckily, I was able to fail at it twice and find out that I’m meant to be here.
“I’ve always had to do these challenges to keep myself busy. Have a goal in mind of what I wanted to do.”
And what Justin wanted to do was inspire. Inspire anyone that might be going through their own mental health issues and their own struggles. So on the first day of May — the first day of mental health awareness month — Justin dove into the water and set out on his journey.
“I swam from Key Largo to South Beach Miami, leading into a 2,900-mile cycle from Miami to Belmont Park in San Diego. And then a 600-mile run from Belmont Park to the Golden Gate Bridge.”
There were challenges and adversity all along the way, but Justin’s message was the one constant.
“No matter what lows or highs or lows you’re going through and you don’t think it’s ever going to get better, just keep telling yourself ‘It will get better, it will get better’ and ‘Today may not be my day. Tomorrow may not be my day. There’s a shark. Next day there’s jellyfish that could kill me. Well, obviously this isn’t my day, but soon, I’m going to keep fighting. I’m going to keep fighting for tomorrow and get hit by a car. Well, today’s not my day. But I’m going to keep fighting for that day that’s going to make it all worthwhile.’
“You never know when you’re finally going to have that day where you’re so happy you made it to. And I wanted to inspire people by doing that where it doesn’t matter what happens. Just keep fighting. Make it to tomorrow. Make that promise to yourself that if you make it to tomorrow, it’ll be alright. And if it’s not alright, make that promise again. And, eventually, those will add up to 5, 10, 15 years and a life you’re proud … sticking it out.”
He eventually ran across the Golden Gate Bridge, finishing his journey a little more than six weeks after it began.
Justin raised more than $20,000 for mental health awareness and, most importantly, had proved to himself and anyone paying attention that anything is possible.
“There’s a reason my brother survived. There’s a reason my mom survived. There’s a reason why I survived. I want to live to tell that story and hope that one person can connect to somewhere in there and just know that everything is going to be alright no matter what happens. You need to keep it in your head. And, overall, just want to make my mom proud.”
Justin said it was the messages coming in on social media that kept him going. Anyone that reached out and said they were inspired or had been motivated to make a positive change in their lives was what fueled him daily.
Justin hopes to write a book and release a documentary in the future about his experience.