It’s an awareness campaign and a fundraiser. It’s a physically demanding relay run that covers challenging terrain. But for founder and lead runner Allan Kobayashi, the Wounded Warrior Run BC has become something even more important — a chance for people affected by post-traumatic disorder (PTSD) to connect and help each other.
Kobayashi, who was diagnosed with PTSD and operational stress injury (OSI) in 2006, founded Wounded Warrior Run BC, which traverses the length of Vancouver Island each February, after a conversation with a good friend in 2013 about running.
“I was struggling and I was going through some pretty hard times in my journey and that’s kind of where I started to find that running was my key, running was my free tool that I had readily available and accessible,” he said. “So with using running and wanting to reach out and touch people and tell people my story, two and two went together. It was actually through conversations, ‘why the hell don’t we just run down the Island and talk about how running is helping me cope with post-traumatic stress disorder.’”
The first Wounded Warrior Run BC took place in 2014, and for the first year, Kobayashi mainly wanted to get out there and share his story. In one way, the run also represents going through struggles and pushing forward.
“One of the best quotes I’ve heard and I love and I live by now is ‘We have to be willing to step through the fear to get where we want to go,’” he said. “It’s one of my favourite things I’ve ever heard because it’s so true.”
Kobayashi hopes Wounded Warrior Run BC will keep getting bigger and bigger and keep touching more and more people, because it’s those moments of connecting with other human beings that are so powerful and so beautiful — within the team itself and in the communities they run through.
“It’s not just about the soldier, it’s not just about EMS, it’s not just about anybody — it’s everybody,” he said. “It’s a human being — it’s not a soldier, it’s not a police officer, it’s not a paramedic, it’s not subject to your title as what you do as a job. It’s the human being that suffers. It’s the human being that experiences a traumatic event and how they deal with it. That’s my message. I want to get out to every human being and say ‘you know what? You may have PTSD, come and join the family, come and talk. If you don’t want to talk, just be with like-minded people who understand and get it, and find comfort in this. That’s what’s amazing.’”
The third annual Wounded Warrior Run BC began Feb. 22 in Port Hardy. The seven-day relay run covers 600 kilometres , stopping in communities from Port Hardy to Victoria to raise public awareness and financial support for Wounded Warriors Canada, a non-profit charity that provides programs for those suffering from PTSD and other mental health issues. This year’s run ends Feb. 28 in Victoria with a finale at 4 p.m. at Saunders Subaru with Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon.
When the team arrived in Campbell River on Wednesday, Jeff Kibble, the run’s public relations officer and a runner with the team, said the run was going “awesome.”
“Our mission is to raise awareness for mental health issues for veterans and serving RCMP and first responders, and so far in Port Hardy and in Woss, Sayward, Port McNeill, we’ve connected with Legions and with people and opened up and talked about various mental health issues, so we’re achieving our goal and our aim, which is really good,” said Kibble. “People are incredibly generous and they’re also donating funds and services to help the team. For example, here in Campbell River, the Comfort Inn has given us rooms at no cost.
“The Legion is welcoming us in and giving us dinner. Up in Sayward, we stayed at the Sayward Valley Resort and Terry, the owner, gave us rooms for the night. He’s ex-Army and he’s a guy we’ve connected with and shared stories with and that’s our goal. It’s a big, big success.”
During their stop in Campbell River, the Wounded Warrior Run BC team received a $1,050 donation from the Campbell River Legion and had a spaghetti dinner made by the Legion Ladies Auxiliary.
The Wounded Warrior Run BC left Serious Coffee in Campbell River — which has been collecting donations for the run and held a send-off celebration with live music — Thursday morning (Feb. 25) and then ran to Oyster River, where the team made a presentation at the Oyster River Fire Department, on their way to Comox.
Angel Kibble, the run’s accommodations and recovery officer, was diagnosed with PTSD in 2012 after unknowingly living with it for a couple of years. She and Jeff both feel the run is important for creating understanding — which comes out of creating awareness.
“The issues at hand, PTSD, have touched our lives directly,” said Angel. “It’s touched our lives, our family, in other ways — and everyone on the team. The stigma needs to be lifted, and people need to be aware that they are not alone, they can talk. There are other people out there.
“The more people that are aware and educated, the more people are going to be able to come forth and say ‘my name’s Angel Kibble and I have PTSD.’
“It shows strength to be able to step forward and say it; whereas, a lot of people feel it shows weakness, and it’s exactly the opposite.”
To learn more about Wounded Warrior Run BC, make a donation or track the runners, visit woundedwarriorrunbc.com.