Gold Story: Running To Heal – How Having PTSD Helped Me Qualify For Boston
“My mantra is Run Positive,” Nathan says.
Running has become Nathan’s therapy, his calming force, and his way of moving forward after suffering a brutal attack in front of his home in Santa Clarita and years of PTSD afterwards.
On July 11, 2013, a group of kids in their teens and early 20s who had been partying at a condo across from Nathan’s attacked him. The group was being really loud in the community area, drinking, shooting off illegal fireworks, and doing drugs and Nathan went out to ask them to stop and go inside their own house.
They got upset with him and as Nathan was walking away, one of them threw a large outdoor trash can at him, knocking him out. Then, they kicked him in the face several times while he was down.
Nathan ended up in the hospital for four days. All four orbital bones around one of his eyes were broken, his nose was broken in two places, he had some vision loss, and doctors were worried about brain swelling.
“They nearly killed me.”
And as horrible as this incident was, what was even worse was that after it happened Nathan had to spend the next several years trying to get someone — anyone! — to care about what had happened to him.
There was never a police report taken, no one was arrested, there was never any recourse from this attack, and Nathan believes that it was covered up because one of the kids involved had a dad who worked for the LA Sheriff’s Department.
“I had PTSD from the incident itself, but then also the added victimization that happened again because the police never did anything about it,” Nathan said. “It was added salt in the wound that took a really, really long time to deal with.”
Something Had To Change
After a few years of dealing with this, Nathan was starting to regularly have PTSD episodes. He would have “emotional lockups” where he just couldn’t deal with situations and he’d have to leave.
“It’s just so tasking and emotionally draining,” Nathan remembered. “I knew something had to give because this can’t just keep happening forever and not have a lasting effect.”
After another episode like this, he woke up one morning and he knew that what needed to change was him.
“The thing that needed to change was me and how I handled this situation,” he said. “It became very clear that one of the things that was going to help me do this was running.”
Prior to the attack, Nathan had run casually. He was fast during his junior high and high school days. His sophomore year he set a school record in the 1600 meter race.
But, he didn’t really keep up the training or put the work into running much after high school. He got a graphic design degree in college and he ran some 5Ks or 10Ks and even a half marathon, but never a marathon because he says he had too much respect for the race.
“I always said I wouldn’t run a marathon until I had the commitment to actually train properly for it,” he said.
So now he was coming back to running. His fiance, Deanna, encouraged him to start running again because she thought it would help him heal.
He needed something new to focus on, and running helped him do that. He also added meditation and used the Nike app that incorporates meditation while running.
Nathan started doing these guided runs and daily meditations and then about two weeks after he had started running again, he decided he wanted to run the Santa Clarita Marathon.
After he told his fiance he was going to run a marathon, he says she told him: “I said run! I didn’t say you had to run a marathon!”
Running Changed Me
But Nathan knew that this was what he needed to help him, so he started running everyday and used a Nike running coach to help him train for the first marathon he ran.
He finished his first marathon on Nov. 4, 2018, with a time of 4:04, even hobbling through with a stress fracture in his foot that he didn’t know about.
“It changed me,” Nathan said about running his first marathon.
He instantly wanted more after that first one and he even started looking at how he could qualify for the Boston Marathon.
He wanted so much more that he ended up running four marathons in 364 days, and with each marathon he ran, he kept cutting his time down.
Qualifying for the Boston Marathon really became a goal for him.
In March 2019, he ran the LA Marathon in 3:37.
In November 2019, he ran with Team Ultra at the New York City Marathon, getting his time down to 3:15.
Going into 2020, qualifying for the Boston Marathon was in Nathan’s sights.
And on Jan. 19, 2020, he ran the Houston Marathon with a time of 3:05:34, qualifying him for the 2021 Boston Marathon.
With training, dedication, and focus, Nathan cut almost an hour off his marathon time.
And what’s even more amazing is that he also has not had another PTSD episode since he started running.
He has been able to heal from his injuries, both physically and mentally. He’s been able to let go and enjoy his life with his fiance and his son.
Running marathons has also allowed Nathan and his family to travel the country and have experiences they might not have otherwise had. In Houston they went to NASA and this summer in San Francisco they’re planning on going to Alcatraz.
Coming to San Francisco for the marathon last summer was “an amazing experience for the family,” Nathan remembers.
“The San Francisco Marathon course was gorgeous,” he said. “Going across the Golden Gate Bridge was euphoric (and terrifying because of the wind).”
He also enjoyed the community and friendships that he made by becoming a San Francisco Marathon Ambassador and he’s looking forward to seeing friends he made last year again at this year’s race.
He loves this sport because “I don’t have to fail for you to succeed.” Everyone celebrates each other’s accomplishments, helps each other out, and encourages you.
Nathan is going to keep running.
Now that he’s qualified for Boston, he’s going to keep training and try to cut his time down even more.
He’d like to run a sub-3 hour marathon next. He’d also like to try to win the Santa Clarita Marathon, in his hometown and the first marathon he ran.
But, even more than the running, Nathan says he wants to help others who have been in similar situations to his.
He says, “My goal is to take the hand I was dealt that day, and turn it into something positive, by sharing my story with other victims of assault and showing them that there is another way to live. Life without fear, resentment, and anger is possible, you simply have to want it.”
In honor and celebration of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games that will be happening at the same time as the 2020 San Francisco Marathon, we are telling runners’ Gold Stories.
For many, running in the Olympics may be a far off dream, but we know you have your own goals and achievements that we want to hear about and celebrate, because everyone can have their own version of a Gold Goal!