Christian Griffith runs ultramarathons and survival races all over the world, but nothing quite compares to his latest adventure that brought him through Spanish Fork on Thursday: running more than 3,000 miles across the United States to raise awareness for child sexual abuse.
He’s already run more than 2,300 miles through 10 states since he started running from New York in March, and after Utah, he’ll run through Nevada and California, finishing the run Aug. 22 in San Francisco.
Though Griffith has been a sponsored skateboarder, a contestant on “American Ninja Warrior” and completed more than 100 ultramarathons, this particular journey is extremely personal for him.
Griffith partnered with Help for Children, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention and treatment of child abuse, and hopes to raise both awareness about the issue and $1 million.
Sexually abused by his mother and multiple men as a child, Griffith hid his experience for years, finding unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with the trauma.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that his current girlfriend told him he needed to seek help or the relationship wouldn’t work out.
“She said I needed to change my behaviors and the ways that I was treating women, or she was going to leave me,” Griffith said.
Though he dragged his feet at the idea of going to therapy, ultimately, it helped him find healing for hurts he had kept bottled up for his whole life.
“(Therapy) went really, really well. I’m still in therapy, and I feel like I’ll always be in therapy,” Griffith said. “You can’t unravel 30, 35, years worth of behaviors in two.”
Ultimately, Griffith said he hopes people who hear about his run are inspired to take the first step and start talking about the abuse they have experienced.
“What you tend to see happen is, especially if it’s a family member, people don’t want to bring it up because they don’t want to be ‘that’ person in their family,” Griffith said.
People might also have fear that people won’t believe them, or be afraid that they will be hated or create divisiveness within their families, Griffith said.
But talking about it is the first step to finding healing and treatment, Griffith said, and staying silent is harmful for everyone involved.
“It’s harmful for the person that it happened to, and it’s harmful for any potential future victims,” Griffith said. “So my goal is to help people start talking, and once they start talking, it will eventually lead to treatment.”
With about a month left in his journey, Griffith is averaging about 34 miles a day, but said he’s starting to miss his girlfriend and daughter and may ramp his mileage up to 40 miles a day.
He first entered Utah on July 6 near Vernal, and ran through Springville, Spanish Fork, Payson, Salem and Santaquin in the past week.
Running through Utah’s July heat has been rough at times, Griffith said, and he plans to start running at night once he hits more arid areas.
He takes occasional rest days, “only” running a half marathon, or 13 miles, he said, but does not plan to take a day off running before reaching San Francisco unless he gets injured.
Griffith said the miles of trail he ran from Strawberry Reservoir to the Diamond Fork Hot Springs are some of the prettiest scenery he’s ever run through — and it’s not for lack of scenery to compare it to, having run in the Alps, Nicaragua and Australia.
The GoFundMe account associated with Griffith’s run can be found at run2heal.hfc.org/donate, and so far has raised $51,000 for Help for Children.