Three years ago, Dearric Winchester couldn't run a quarter mile before excruciating knee pain set in. Today, he's tearing through shoes as he trains for a 50-mile solo run later this month.
"After a lot of rehab I was able to run a little and I set a goal of completing a half marathon. Thankfully, it was a small turnout and I finished third," Winchester says. And he let that momentum carry him. "Then I just kept running and by the end of that summer I finished three half marathons and a solo marathon."
Though the Redmond man originally set out to run the equivalent of his age—a still-ambitious 33 miles—he caught fresh inspiration after watching a program about Ted Jackson, a regular guy who accomplishes feats of endurance to raise funds and awareness for his wife's battle with multiple sclerosis. Because Winchester's wife suffers from debilitating migraines, the connection was clear.
"Even though this was a lofty goal it always felt hollow," Winchester recalls. "This made me realize the value of what I was attempting and the unique opportunity I had to share my wife's fight with migraines. Suddenly, the distance didn't seem far enough, so 50 miles became the distance."
In the course of his "daunting" training for the September 29 fundraising run, Winchester has purchased five pairs of running shoes, run 574 miles since June, and covered an elevation gain of 39,700 feet.
"Once I committed to a training regimen and was looking at it on paper, it really set in what I was going to be doing for a couple months," Winchester explains. "The numbers just didn't seem feasible. But, days and weeks passed and I was running farther, longer, and having fun doing it. It has taken me to places I would have never seen otherwise."
By the time he laces up his fifth pair of shoes for the 50-mile solo run through Smith Rock State Park and the Crooked River Grasslands, Winchester will have completed five runs at or exceeding marathon lengths, and at least eight that fall somewhere between half and full marathons.
But he's not just relatively new to running, Winchester's never really raised money like this before either.
"I've never done any real fundraising. I've donated and that's really the extent on my involvement in the process," he says. "Kirsten and I have been stumbling through this process together. My great joy of this process has been seeing others understand how amazing I have known my wife to be all along."
In addition to the $4,000 he hopes to raise on behalf of the Association of Migraine Disorders, Winchester expects to walk away from the experience with an even greater empathy for the challenges his wife and other migraine sufferers must push through on a regular basis.
"I think the biggest benefit will come from myself. Having endured and prepared for this distance has really challenged me mentally and physically. There are days when I just don't want to run or even feel like I can," Winchester explains. "It can take miles for my body and mind to start feeling capable. These are the moments I think of and try to relate to when my wife heads off to work or is playing with our son with a migraine."
Ultimately, Winchester says he hopes his run will help others to empathize with the migraine sufferers in their lives, or get help if they need it. He points out that migraines can be challenging for family, too.
"Don't let those you know to suffer from migraines feel left alone. It can be really, really hard to have a family member that needs to spend hours locked a few feet away but be completely inaccessible," Winchester advises. "The strength some need to deal with migraines sometimes isolates them. Make sure they feel involved in their own life."
To learn more about Winchester's run, visit crowdrise.com/ForKirsten.