Bend Athletes Plan Cross Country Triathlon Fundraiser for Mental Health Awareness Month

“It’s okay, it’s okay,” Justin Trudeau said

(Update: Added video, comment by Justin True)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) — Bend resident Justin True has fought many battles in his 30 years, not only in mixed martial arts, but in an unseen aspect that people often face alone. :depression.

“Looking for mixed martial arts, I feel like it’s something I can handle, I’m used to it,” True said Tuesday. “I was used to being punched and kicked and I realised I was strong – and I was really good at it.

True found a passion for pushing himself to the limit through mixed martial arts training. He trained in Bend and traveled the world to hone his skills, including trips to gyms in the US, Holland, Belgium and Asia.

To this day, he uses the lessons he learned in Octagon to help him overcome severe depression and inspire others.

“In combat days, when you’re pinned to a cage, you have one of two options: stand up and keep fighting, or accept defeat and be defeated,” True said. “You need to keep fighting, whether it’s against life or the emotions in your head telling you to give up. Even if it’s just an extra second, those seconds add up to minutes, then days. Ultimately, these fights add up to win the war.”

True had a tough childhood and strained family relationships, and he says he tried his life twice.

“I didn’t pay attention to anything that was going on in my head,” True said. That’s the worst thing I can do. I think what we do is, we don’t talk about our feelings. I thought, ‘I didn’t choose to be here, why am I here? You know – ‘I didn’t choose to be born, so why can’t I choose to leave? ‘”

True said he decided at the age of 18 that he couldn’t go on living through traumatic events that scarred him. Even after being tortured, burned, threatened and caged, he found a reason to keep going.

Driven by a desire to help others through tough times, True launched the True Triathlon in May — dubbed the longest triathlon in U.S. history — to raise awareness about mental health. The goal is to raise $500,000. He’s working with a charity called Bigger Than The Trail, which focuses on supporting those struggling with mental health through running and therapeutic options.

True hopes that the triathlon will be a platform for discussions about mental health and a catalyst for fundraising at the same time. He invited anyone who would join his line if they wanted to. On each leg, he hopes well-known athletes, actors, musicians and thought leaders will join Justin in creating space to share his stories. True plans to document the True Triathlon and the stories shared along the way as part of a feature film.

“After swimming 60 miles along the Atlantic coast, I’ll swim from the South to Miami. Then I’ll bike from Miami, 3,400 miles across the US, to San Diego,” True said. “Then drive 600 miles north to San Francisco, ending at the Golden Gate Bridge.”

While it may seem like a physically insurmountable task, True’s past mental and physical challenges have prepared him for this new ordeal. His past endeavors include completing a 150-mile tandem bike ride in Oregon Falls, an Olympic triathlon carrying a 90-pound concrete Thor, a 26.2-mile marathon pulling a truck and a 29-day, nearly 500-mile walking traverse in Madagascar, where he met to countless life-threatening situations.

We’ve previously covered True’s “adventure athlete” activity—a 24-hour workout that takes him to walk 26 miles and drag a car.

“A triathlon was the perfect metaphor for what I was trying to convey,” True said. “Swimming in the sea symbolises the waves of life – sometimes you can’t tell the up and down, but eventually you get to a clear place and at some point the rough part will end.”

True said he wanted to break down the stigma surrounding mental health while showing others the “undeniable power of telling the truth”.

“We need someone to care, I think, yes, just to end the stigma surrounding it — ‘You’re not crazy, you’re normal,'” True said. “It’s okay if it’s not normal.”

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