For my entire life, I've been on the run -- at first it was as a child, "running away" from the violent and daily physical abuse that took place behind closed doors in my home. From that moment onward, I kept everything inside of me, and around me, off in the distance. And thus began many years of escape that came in the form of a destructive alcohol and drug addiction.
I want you to see the 'real' me -- a man who has been running his entire life, a man who has travelled so far, only to come back to himself. My name is Jean-Paul, and I am a survivor of sexual violence, but I am so much more than that. I am a husband. I am a father. I am a writer. I am an elite athlete. I am an advocate for survivors all around the world.
For some reason everyone thinks that it is OK for anyone to go running in an effort to improve their health. This is simply not an appropriate recommendation. Running is not the BEST form of exercise. It is simply a form of exercise and one that requires preliminary strength and mobility prior to starting.
The best advice I ever got was "You only run your first race once." It's more important to enjoy yourself and feel good when you cross the finish line than it is to have an impressive time on your first marathon. You have a whole lifetime to improve your pace (if you want to), but your first race is all about the excitement!
I started running in 1991. During this time, finding a good, supportive sports bra was really limited. The sports bras were mostly cross back and strapped you in. There wasn't much stretch and I could barely breathe -- the bras were so restrictive. At the end of a long run, I would have painful chafing. Not fun.
The foot is complex; it has 33 joints and huge neurological potential. It is supposed to be able to maneuver and adapt to different terrains and communicate with the brain about whole-body balance and proprioception. Proprioception is the feedback loop between your body and brain that allows your brain to know where your body is in space.
Despite what the advertisers lead us to believe, there is no "ideal" running figure. The only requirement for calling yourself a runner is to lace up a pair of running shoes and start putting one foot in front of the other. Running is not about what you look like, but rather, what you see yourself becoming.
As a scared child, I ran away from the abuse around me, and as an adult, I used drugs and alcohol to run away from the trauma inside me. But here's the interesting part -- shortly after I got clean and sober, I actually took up the sport of running. This fall, I will be running the Toronto Waterfront Marathon three times in the same day (126.6 km), not as a fundraiser, but simply to show others how resilient we are, even after the trauma of sexual violence. But most importantly, I hope that my campaign will build upon the momentum we are starting to see in the media about the prevalence of sexual violence and the need to address the countless lives that lay in its wake.