Mississauga father runs 19th marathon, one for each year of son’s life

A man from Mississauga, Ont., is gearing up to run the city’s annual marathon on Sunday for the 19th time in honour of his son, who died by suicide.

“I made a crazy goal that I would run my first marathon and decided that I would run 19 consecutive marathons each representing a year of my son’s life,” David Harris told Global News.

In 2005, Harris’s son Cameron took his own life. In addition to becoming physically fit after dealing with health issues, Harris turned to running to help alleviate grief following his son’s passing –hasn’t stopped since.

Although the Mississauga marathon is a half marathon, Harris will start the race at 4:15 a.m. and run the course twice.

“I realized the physical correlation between physical health and mental health and if it wasn’t for running, and if it wasn’t for being physically fit, I wouldn’t be standing here today.”

Harris founded an organization, Team Unbreakable following the loss of his son, which aims to prevent teen suicide. He shares a special bond with Eric Windeler, whose son Jack also died by suicide in 2010 while he was studying at Queen’s University.

“We didn’t even know he was struggling,” Windeler said of his son.

Harris is hoping to also bring more awareness to mental health by raising $1 million for Windeler’s national youth mental health charity, jack.org.

The website provides education and resources for those struggling with their mental health. Windeler says the goal is to “reach young people before they’re in crisis, educating them about mental health so they know how to take care of themselves and importantly, they know how to keep their eyes on their peers.”

In partnership with Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation, Windeler’s organization has also created a digital resource that has trained more than 20,000 people on how to recognize symptoms of struggle in themselves and those around them.

As for Harris, while he’s faced his own mental blocks since his son’s passing, he says crossing the finish line for the 19th time will be nothing short of transformative.

“It’ll be filled with a ton of emotion,” he said. “It’s just the end of a chapter in my life and certainly the start of a new one.”’

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