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In the Long Run

Two years ago, professional wedding photographer Aurora Amaya felt she had run out of life to give. Her inner struggles and best-kept secrets had left her lying in the middle of a massive highway late at night, hoping to get the jump on an oncoming vehicle and end it all. But even after a painstaking wait, miraculously none ever came. Instead, Amaya, 28, was forced to get up and run toward the healing found in Christ-centered community, authenticity and a life lived pro-actively. Running for Awareness is the result of that journey of restoration.

From October 17 to November 14, Amaya and a fleet of friends, athletes and celebrities will be running across the state of Texas, from the skyline of Dallas to the shoreline of Galveston, in a month-long move of solidarity to promote the pursuit of emotional wellness and transparency. She says it’s a chance to “take emotional health awareness out of the shadows and put it out in the open, for everyone to talk about.” Amaya will be trekking approximately 10 miles a day for 29 days. Unlike other charitable runs, everyone is invited and can run as long or as little as they like, but there are no sign-ups. Instead, participants wear shirts on which they have intentionally labeled their personal struggles, casting them into the light for all to see. That’s the entrance fee: the freedom found in self-disclosure.

Amaya has hardly been alone in her struggle for emotional health. Statistics show that in any given year, 18.8 million American adults struggle with depression. Moreover, it’s estimated that everyone will be affected by depression at some time in their life, whether suffering through it themselves, or supporting someone else in their struggles. Yet, emotional health is a subject few are willing to discuss openly. That’s the goal of Running for Awareness; to bring a new openness to a subject often shrouded in secrecy.

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According to Amaya, the primary aim of Running for Awareness is providing a healthy outlet for others to find freedom and encouragement in opening up about their personal struggles. “I want people to see what happens when they allow themselves to admit their addictions to control, codependency, eating, cutting, fear, pornography, perfectionism … whatever they may be,” she says. And that in doing so, people would find hope.

But undertaking nearly 300 miles on foot is no small task. Having wrestled with issues like overeating and depression since her childhood, Amaya has shed more than 80 pounds and much emotional baggage through a regimen of nutrition, exercise and counseling. Now, each week, she meets with Craig Keaton, a holistic health coach and movement specialist based in Dallas, and Mike Hummel, a running coach and world-class athlete preparing for the 2012 London Olympic Games. Running has given Amaya newfound passion and an outlet to show others they don’t have to be alone in their personal struggles, and come this fall, she’ll be ready to take her story on the road, along with anyone and everyone who is willing to join her.

Learn more about Running for Awareness at awarenessrun.wordpress.com and www.amayaphotography.com.

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