Sarah Moss Connects Mental and Physical Health On Team Thrive By Sydni Budelier

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In 2014 Dan Hohs, a versatile athlete challenged by depression and bipolar disorder, began working with Hope For The Day to develop a program that expresses the link between healthy bodies and healthy minds. He had found relief through endurance sports and jumped into training and competing in triathlons, eventually becoming an Ironman. For him endurance sports provided the motivation to improve all aspects of his life, and taught him that he could do what he once thought was impossible. His goal was to showcase how physical and mental health are connected, and he was open about his experiences in a way that encouraged others to engage in physical activities as well as push the dialog on mental health.

Tragically, on October 7, 2017 we lost Dan to a rattlesnake bite while he was hiking in Golden, Colorado. But while some say he died doing the physical activities he claimed saved his life, his legacy continues to fuel the program born out of his inspiration. Today Team Thrive celebrates the connection between physical and mental health and rallies athletes of all kinds to become activists for mental health and suicide prevention. The team strives to raise the visibility of resources and break mental health stigma by using physical activity platforms, such as high profile races and community events, as opportunities to provide outreach and education.

Among our Team Thrive members is Dan’s mentor and friend, Sarah Moss. Since last year, Sarah has carried Dan’s torch across the finish line, ensuring her community knows It’s Ok Not To Be Ok and that there are resources available for anyone faced with a mental health challenge. As an accomplished long distance runner and running coach, she uses her active lifestyle to connect physical and mental health by sharing her personal victories on and off the race course, and encouraging fellow runners to find inspiration and hope regardless of challenges.

Sarah’s fitness journey began in 2002 when she realized it was time to get in shape. In 2001 her mother had been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a terminal lung disease, and despite being active as a kid, Sarah had been overweight for the first 23 years of her life. With no more excuses and a newfound motivation to stay healthy, Sarah called upon a college friend to help her start working out. Her fitness network grew from there as she found support in a group of friends who pushed her to sign up for races. In 2005 she competed in her first half marathon and hasn’t stopped since.

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“I'll never forget the moment I was able to run five minutes straight. I called my dad that evening and was so darn proud . . . now I'm running in endurance events that take 12+ hours! I just started to meet more and more people who enjoyed running, and they kept talking me into doing races. I fell in love with it immediately.”

After that first race, she went on to compete in a full marathon in 2007, a half Ironman in 2012, then a full Ironman in 2013. She was also a pace leader for the Chicago Area Running Association marathon training program in 2011, and in 2013 she served as a guide for Achilles International, running the New York City Marathon with a disabled athlete to assist him in finishing his 15th consecutive New York City Marathon. Now with over 25 half marathons, 19 marathons, 6 half Ironmans, and 3 Ironmans completed, Sarah has become a certified running coach to give back and inspire others to pursue their goals.

One of the qualities that makes Sarah so inspirational is her willingness to be open about the things she has gone through. Despite the many accomplishments she’s earned, she is no stranger to mental health challenges. During her pursuit to get in shape she lost 60+ pounds, however she describes the weight loss as a physical and mental challenge to maintain. She has also confronted personal mental health challenges triggered by troubled relationships and the loss of family members. As a witness to a number of friends’ and family members’ battles with mental health, she remembers caring for those close to her when they needed someone to talk to or were hospitalized for suicidal thoughts and attempts. But rather than letting the negative effects of mental health bring her down, she finds hope and mental clarity through what she deems her own form of therapy: training.

“[Training] truly is my therapy. It’s something I love to do and most mornings I don't mind waking up at 5AM to knock out a workout before work or on the weekends to beat the heat. I also remind myself almost daily, and especially on the rough days when I'm tired—I remind myself to do this for those who can't. There are many people who want to do this stuff and can't because either they aren't here with us any more or they’re injured. Not everyone is lucky enough to do this crazy fun stuff.”

In the spring of 2012, Sarah ran into a young man in the elevator lobby of the building they lived in. They were both on their way to work and had just finished individual 20+ mile bike rides that morning. They started talking and walking together, and didn’t stop until they had to part ways for work. That man was Dan Hohs and he and Sarah became instant friends. In the years that followed they supported each other on an array of adventures and routed each other on through training and everyday life.

“I miss this kid!” Sarah says of Dan. “He took chances and I loved that . . . He did what he had to do and started this amazing initiative. There is so much to say about Dan, but I loved that he took chances, always had an open mind, and cared deeply about a lot of people no matter who they were.”

With several races coming up, including the Des Moines, Iowa Marathon on October 21st, Sarah will continue to carry on Dan’s legacy with Team Thrive and participate in the physical activities that bring her joy. Outside of competing in her own races she will be utilizing her platform in the running community to attend the Chicago Marathon on October 7th and support her friends and fellow running mates. While she won’t be competing in the race herself, she will be out there on the sidelines, cheering from the “Do It For Dan” and Team Thrive sections; encouraging others to be their best selves and reminding everyone that We Are In This Together.

*To learn more about Team Thrive or join the team, click here. All Team Thrive members are dedicated to bridging the gap between physical and mental health and use their athletic platforms to perform mental health outreach and education.

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