Go The Distance helps people overcome addiction, one run at a time: Season of Sharing 2022

TJ Trudo chuckles at the memory of his first run this summer with Go The Distance, a Portland nonprofit that for three years has helped people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction build support networks founded on exercise.

Days after moving into Southeast Portland treatment center Fora Health, Trudo squeezed into his pair of worn-out running shoes and joined a Go The Distance group to run at a track in Floyd Light City Park.

The 41-year-old Portland native did not get far. His lungs were on fire by the end of his third lap. He stopped to breathe, frustrated with his body and the shape he had put it in.

“It was tough going,” said Trudo, four months and about 30 Go The Distance runs later. “I was kind of a shell of a man at the time.”

No longer.

Trudo’s story is exactly the kind that inspired Izzy Alvarado to create Go The Distance in 2019.

“It makes me feel good,” Alvarado said. “It makes me feel hopeful for him. It makes me feel like he has a chance.”

> Donate to Go The Distance or the Season of Sharing general fund

Himself in recovery, Alvarado volunteered for six months leading people at a downtown Portland treatment center five days a week. He quickly realized that many of them didn’t have the shoes necessary to make running a regular and comfortable habit, so he went on Facebook to ask friends and followers to donate shoes.

“Then we just started getting shoes,” Alvarado said. That was helpful, he said, but he knew cash donations would be better, to be able to buy the exact right types and sizes. Alvarado talked with a friend about it and, together, they created the nonprofit Go The Distance, and cash donations started to come in.

Go The Distance, a beneficiary of The Oregonian/OregonLive’s 2022 Season of Sharing holiday fundraising campaign, now has three part-time employees and about five volunteers. With a $185,000 annual budget pulled together from grants and donations, Alvarado and his team lead 10 weekly runs for people staying in three Portland drug and alcohol treatment centers, and two runs a week for people who ran with the group while in treatment but have since graduated.

The runs start with greetings and a stretch and last two to three miles, depending on the day. Around mid-way through a run, Alvarado stops the group for a check-in. He shares what’s on his mind and heart, and how his recovery is going. He then asks others to share. After 12 runs with Go The Distance, a runner gets free pair of running shoes and socks, a T-shirt, a drawstring bag, a medal and a certificate.

For all the positive anticipation Trudo said he felt on a recent Saturday morning as he stretched before a Go The Distance run, the path that brought him to that point was often dark.

One year after checking out of his last stint in a treatment center, Trudo thought he could control his drinking if he picked it up again. But that’s not what happened.

Trudo stopped going to recovery meetings, and over the course of a few months he was drinking more than he was before he got into treatment. When his father died in April, Trudo “went off the deep end,” he said.

Trudo’s breaking point was in June, the day after his older brother’s wedding, when he woke up in a hospital bed with no memory of the previous night. The level of alcohol in his blood would have been fatal for most other people, a doctor told him.

But it was the look on his mother’s face when she came into the hospital room that really shook him.

“I think she was scared,” Trudo said, crying at the memory. “In that moment, I recognized the damage I was doing to other people.”

Within weeks, Trudo checked into his room at Fora Health. For months, he has been taking classes, getting counseling, doing art, practicing new life skills, attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and, most Tuesday and Saturday mornings, putting on his sneakers and stepping outside for a run.

Standing in a circle in the Fora Health parking lot after a recent Saturday run, Alvarado launched the group’s post-run share.

“My sobriety date is June 20, 2017,” Alvarado said, setting the tone. “I’m really proud to be my authentic self and to be able to find myself here.”

It was Trudo’s turn.

After months at the treatment center, the man was getting ready to leave its controlled, safe environment.

“It’s kind of scary to be out there,” he said. “But I know I’ll be better this time.”

A fellow runner was ready with an answer.

“Come to an alumni run!”

What your donation can do

$50: Gets a runner a Go The Distance T-shirt, socks and sports bra.

$100: Pays for a pair of running shoes and Go The Distance medals for runners who complete 12 runs.

$150: Pays for running shoes and clothes and helps Go The Distance expand run offerings to a fourth treatment center.

— Fedor Zarkhin

This article is supported by PacificSource, a partner of Here is Oregon. The journalism is produced independently by members of The Oregonian/OregonLive newsroom.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

Lazy Cork
Enable registration in settings - general
Compare items
  • Total (0)
Shopping cart