Episode 98 - Alex Hall and Tad Meyer

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SOS 1000 Mile Run Facebook Page:

https://www.facebook.com/SOS1000milerun/

SOS 1000 Mile Run Donation Website:

https://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.personalCampaign&participantID=1315300

Alexander Lyman Hall

Lives in Stafford, VA.  Currently rank of Senior Firefighter with Henrico Fire, VA.  Currently stationed at firehouse 10, which houses Engine 10 and Truck 10; assigned to Truck 10.
Henrico is a full career department with 21 stations.  
I have been with Henrico for 5 years, and volunteered in Prince William County at Dumfries-Triangle Station 3, one year prior to that.  


Originally from Wendell, NC, just outside of Raleigh, NC.  I grew up playing most sports competitively.  In high school, I mostly focused on soccer, and was introduced to lifting weights and running distances of 3-5 miles.  I hated running distance, but liked sprinting.  I participated in a church version of Boy Scouts, called Royal Ambassadors (RA’s for short).  I went to a camp for RA’s called Camp Caraway, where besides learning about furthering a personal relationship with God, we learned about being young men/men, archery, shooting, hiking, paddling, camp cooking, and general survival “outdoorsmanship”.  I got a great sense of discipline and a spirit of service from summers at camp caraway.  It’s also where I first learned basic ropes, knots, and repelling.  
I was recruited in high school to play soccer at a handful  of Division 1-3 NCAA schools.
I went to the University of North Carolina at Pembroke for Soccer, playing 4 years of D2 soccer.
I graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Mass Communications, with concentrations in PR and Journalism.


I played semi-pro for the Greenville Lions 2002, and graduated in 2003. After college, I moved to Ludwigsburg Germany and had trials at a couple different clubs before signing to play with FC Heilbronn in the German Verbandsliga.  After my club filed for insolvency, I moved back to North Carolina.  I then followed my Girlfriend (now wife) to the DC metro area.  I got a job with an organization in DC doing communications work with them, and played in the old United Soccer Leagues D3 pro league for the (terrible) Northern Virginia Royals.  I worked 5 days a week, and practiced every night with the team, lifting weights in spare time.  I traveled with the team playing games on weekends all over the east coast getting to play some US Open Cup games, and training with DC United and playing against their reserves occasionally.

 
I stopped playing D3 in 2006, and resigned from my job in DC, and married my girlfriend also in 2006.  I applied to be a fireman in Fairfax County in 2006, but didn’t get in.  
I needed something to bridge the competitive gap from playing/training/etc…so I started running long distance after reading Dean Karnazes’ book, “Ultra-Marathon Man”.  I ran my first couple marathons in 2007/2008 (Marine Corps & Georgia), and ran my first 50 miler shortly after (JFK 50 mile) in Fall of 2008.  I also coached youth soccer, was the GM for a soccer academy, and taught high school for a while trying to figure out my next move.  
I was hooked on running after running JFK in 2008, mostly because it hurt and sucked.   After that I ran a couple more 50’s, and a 100k before running my first 100 mile race in 2011: the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run (in Raleigh, NC).  

Stopped teaching in ’12, and joined a volunteer fire department and went through the fire academy while working for REI.  I then ran Umstead in 2012, and the Grindstone 100 miler in 2012 while attending the Prince William Fire Academy for Volunteers.  I ran the Umstead 50 mile in 2013 (defaulting to 50, since I ran 80 miles and decided not to finish the 100 that year), and graduated Prince William Volunteer academy, and applied to Prince William Fire Dept. and Henrico Fire.  Henrico Fire called, and I was hired in Summer 2013.  I put running on hold until Fall 2014, when I DNF’d Grindstone with Tad.  We then made a plan to run the GAP/C&O together (334 miles).  He got hit by a car in Feb. 2015, and broke his neck.  

We then contacted Matt Long of FDNY (Author of “The Long Run”) to do a fundraiser.  We told Matt we were going to raise some money for his “I Will Foundation” due to Tad’s good fortune in recovery from his broken neck.  We dedicated the run to the 343, and then decided to run 343 miles from Pittsburgh (1 mile for every 9/11 Firefighter death), through DC, and ending at Arlington National Cemetery.  We did the 343 in 7 days (averaging 50 miles per day).  
I then took 2 years to recover, and train.  Last year, Tad’s mother took her life (April 2017).  Tad called me, and we discussed a plan to run for suicide prevention.  Due to my job, and the encounters with suicides, and friends and loved ones depression, anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress, we then decided to run for Mental Health Awareness and Suicide Prevention.  
 

Thaddeus 'Tad' Meyer, 39, grew up in a small town in Indiana as the youngest of four. He was always active as a kid and involved in any number of sports when he wasn't out riding bikes and making trouble with the neighborhood boys. He was a regular on the soccer field, baseball diamond, and tennis court, and by the time he reached junior high, he got involved in track and field. His oldest sister was a competitive track and cross country athlete in high school and college, and he looked to follow in her footsteps. After a short stint running the hurdles, he realized--or his coach told him--that his strength was in distance running, so he was running the mile and 800 from that point on. As he entered high school, he stuck with track and added in soccer and wrestling. It was wrestling where he discovered the drive to push himself and to test his limits. As the coaches trained the wrestlers for hours a day, Tad realized that he enjoyed working out and seeing how hard he could go; he learned to be comfortable being uncomfortable.

 

Following high school, Tad stopped playing sports competitively and instead focused his energy on college. He continued working out and running but spent far more time in the weight room than on the road or trail. It wasn't until his fourth year of grad school that his older brother, by then an experienced marathoner, convinced him to train for and run a marathon, so in October of 2004, Tad ran his first 26.2, the Hartford Marathon. He finished in 3:16, narrowly missing qualifying for Boston. As hard as that race was, he crossed the finish line that day convinced he could run further. Sure enough, 8 months later he found himself signing up for a 50-miler, and in November of 2005, he ran the JFK 50, finishing in just under 8 hours. Once again, he crossed the finish line convinced he could run further than that. To say that his passion for running snowballed after that would be a bit of an understatement: more 50-milers, 100k races, 100-milers, 12- and 24-hour events, and a 7-day 343-mile run from Pittsburgh to DC in October of 2015. What drives him to run so far is still that same passion to push himself to his limits that he discovered back in high school. 3:30am wake-ups to run 20-milers before most people even hit snooze, CrossFit to cross train, being flexible with his workout schedule, and little things like taking the stairs to go up 7 floors instead of using the elevator have been the keys to his ultrarunning training. Having a job in federal service and an understanding wife and kids has certainly helped too: they have allowed him to find the time to train and maintain a healthy balance between work, life, and working out. 

 

When Tad's mother died by suicide in April of 2017 (https://afsp.org/million-steps-mental-health-awareness-suicide-prevention/), Tad immediately knew that he needed to turn the tragedy of her death into something positive. Since Tad had long used running and exercise as his own therapy and means to deal with his own bouts of stress and anxiety, it was a no-brainer that he could use running in a similar manner to honor her memory and raise awareness for mental illness, PTSD, and suicide prevention. He enlisted the help of Alex, and the two of them worked together to design an event that would grab attention for the cause that was so important to them. That was the genesis of the SOS 1000 Mile Run--a run that is NOT about Tad and Alex but about those who are suffering, our service members, veterans, first responders, teenagers, moms, dads, brothers, sisters, and friends. It's about it being okay to not be okay. It's about removing the stigma surrounding mental illness. It's about being open to talking about suicide. 1,000,000 steps to mental health awareness won't cure mental illness, but it's a start to a long journey to do so.

Recommended Books:

The Long Run - Matt Long

Born to Run - Christopher McDougal

Resilience - Eric Greitens

Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance - Alex Hutchinson

The Vanishing American Adult - Benjamin E. Sasse

Recommended Documentaries:

The Barkley Marathons