Q. Who are you?
A. My name is Dan Cornford, and I’m 53 years old. 2.5 years ago, I weighed over 200 pounds, and I couldn’t run around the block. I decided to do something about both of those things. I’m now down to 132 pounds — my high school weight — and I now run marathons.
Q. What are you doing?
A. I’m running across the United States — beginning in Springfield, Oregon and ending in West Palm Beach, Florida — to raise funds for the Cornford Foundation, for mental illness programs and veterans services.
Q. Why did you pick mental illness as your cause?
- Because, for me, it’s personal:
- I know people with Depression; Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD); Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD); Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD); Anxiety Disorders; Bipolar Disorders; and Eating Disorders
- I grew up with my mother suffering from severe depression
- I’ve fought my own demons
- Because of the stigma associated with mental illness
- There is a stigma attached to mental illnesses that isn’t attached to “physical” illnesses, and that stigma keeps people from seeking help for themselves or for their friends and family members
- Because of the statistics for the adult population in the US
- 20% experience a mental illness
- 4% have a serious mental illness
- 7% have major depression
- 18% have an anxiety disorder
- Because depression is the leading cause of disability in the world
- Because 26% of the homeless population in the US have a serious mental illness. And that percentage is based solely upon those homeless who are staying in shelters. I’m sure that number is much higher if the homeless living in cars and on the street are taken into account
- Because 24% of the people in state and local prisons have a mental illness
- Because 90% of the people who commit suicide have an underlying mental illness
- Because 60% of the adults in the US with mental illness aren’t receiving any kind of mental health services
- Because it’s a lot cheaper to treat mental illness than it is to incarcerate people
- Because of the statistics for the teenage population in the US
- 20% have some kind of mental health issue
- 50% of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and addressing these issues early would substantially help a huge part of the teenage and adult population
- 50% with some kind of mental health condition drop out of high school
- 70% in the state and local juvenile justice system have a mental illness
- Because it’s a lot cheaper to treat mental illness than it is to keep someone in juvenile detention and then incarcerated as adults
- Because those who are dangers to themselves and others shouldn’t be relegated to the streets
Q. Why did you also choose combat veterans as your cause?
A. Because I’m tired of people sitting around grousing that someone ought to do something for our veterans. Because I’m tired of people saying we shouldn’t do anything for refugees while there are homeless veterans, but yet most of the same people saying that aren’t doing anything for homeless veterans. Because it’s my way of doing something about the problems facing our combat veterans.
- There are approximately 21 million veterans
- HUD estimates there are approximately 40,000 homeless veterans on any given night
- Approximately 1.4 million veterans are at risk of becoming homeless
- 11% of the homeless adult population are veterans
- 51% of homeless veterans have disabilities of some kind
- 50% of homeless veterans are mentally ill
- 70% of homeless veterans have substance abuse issues
- 50% of homeless veterans are over the age of 50
- In 2007, there were 140,000 veterans in state or federal prison
- At least 20% of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have PTSD and/or depression
- 50% of those with PTSD seek treatment. Of that 50%, only half receive “minimally adequate” treatment
- As many as 19% of veterans may have traumatic brain injury
- Approximately 22 veterans commit suicide every day
Q. Why are you doing this?
A. Because I can.
Because I don’t want to look back and wish I had.
My best friend died very suddenly and very unexpectedly last year. Facebook keeps reminding me of things we talked about doing but then didn’t do. Now don’t get me wrong; we did many, many things, and I have great memories of them; but I do look at some of these things and say, “Why didn’t we ever do that?”
Q. How far will you be running?
A. 3,470 miles.
I ran 185 miles in Oregon, and I plan on running
- 890 miles in California
- 368 miles in Arizona
- 162 miles in New Mexico
- 787 miles in Texas
- 192 miles in Louisiana
- 206 miles in Mississippi
- 70 miles in Alabama
- 610 miles in Florida
Q. How long will it take?
A. Between 5 and 6 months.
I spent 10 days in Oregon, and I plan on spending
- 43 days in California
- 17 days in Arizona
- 8 days in New Mexico
- 36 days in Texas
- 9 days in Louisiana
- 11 days in Mississippi
- 4 days in Alabama
- 28 days in Florida
Q. How are you doing this?
A. I’m running the distance of a marathon (26.2 miles) per running day, running six days per week, and then taking off one day per week to rest and recover.
Q. What cities are you going through in each of those states so if people want to help or say hi or cheer you on, they’ll know where you’ll be?
A. Oregon Route
Q. How will people know where you’ll be on any given day?
Q. How can people help?
- Make a Donation
- Provide a place for me to stay overnight. A room would be great; a couch will do
- Help schedule and coordinate talks at night after my day’s run is over
- Help schedule and coordinate presentations to service organizations during their lunch-time meetings
- Help schedule and coordinate presentations to church groups on Sunday’s on my “days off”
- If you’re part of a local NAMI chapter, part of another mental illness organization, or part of a veterans organization, participate in a presentation so people in attendance will have a local contact with your organization
- If you’re helping with scheduling or providing a couch, be very flexible. Due to the extreme nature of what I’m doing, my schedule will be fluid. The closer a date gets, the more accurate my projection will be, but illness, injury, or lousy weather may still interfere. A lot can happen when running six marathons a week for five months
- Subscribe to my Blog, follow my progress, and comment on my writings so I know people are out there
- Like my page on Facebook, then comment and share so I know there are people pulling for me and so that others become aware of this
- Follow me on Twitter, send me messages, reply to messages, and retweet my messages to get the word out and to let me know you’re out there
- If you have media contacts in locations in which I’ll be running, contact them and see if they’ll do an interview as I run through their town
- If you’re near my running route:
- Honk and wave
- Say Hi
- Run with me for a bit
- It’s much harder to quit when people are watching
- It’s even harder to quit when people are helping and I know I’m not doing this alone
- Let your friends and neighbors know what I’m doing and encourage them to help
- Contact my sponsors and thank them for sponsoring me. They’re helping me keep expenses low. Let them know people are aware of this and appreciate what they’re doing to help
- Prayers, good wishes, happy thoughts, and positive vibes are all appreciated!
Q. This may sound like a silly question, but are you doing anything else?
A. I’m available for talks and presentations along the way on the need for more mental illness resources and for more resources for combat veterans, the resources that are available, how people can help, and encouraging people to stop stigmatizing the mentally ill. I’m available at night after that day’s run is complete, at lunchtime and breakfasts to service organizations, and on Sundays — my day off of running — to church groups.
Q. What are you running from?
Q. What are you running toward?
A. Myself. George Bernard Shaw said it best: “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” That’s what I’m doing.
Q. Speaking of quotations, where did you get your tagline?
A. “It’s harder to give up when people are watching” is something I first realized when I was running a marathon when I was a teenager. The marathon course covered both areas that had a lot of spectators lining the road and areas that had no one at all due to the layout of the course. When people are cheering you on, your posture is erect, you want to make it look like you’ve got this, and quitting isn’t an option. When there is no one around, you realize every bit of pain, you don’t look like you’ve got it, and quitting is just a matter of stopping and getting a ride to the finish line.
Over the years, I realized this applied to much more than running marathons. That’s why I share my goals and my progress toward those goals on social media. That’s why I’m sharing all of this online. If I know I have people supporting me, then it’s much harder to quit. If I know people are literally and figuratively along the road cheering me on, it helps me continue this. That’s true of this project, and it’s true of life.
I’ll have more to say in one of my blog posts that I’ll write on a Sunday.
Q. Who is helping you with this?
A. People with whom I went to school and haven’t seen since 1981, people with whom I used to work, friends and family, people who were total strangers prior to this…
In addition, I have my sponsors who have provided me with much help.