Running has always been a way for Dr. Patrick McEnaney, Chair of Surgery at Milford Regional Medical Center, to settle his mind. Trail running, especially, has been his particular form of mental therapy, as he describes it.
Over the weekend of November 7-8, Patrick ran – and ran and ran – with a purpose: to raise funds for Riverside Community Care’s mental health and suicide prevention programs. From 9am Saturday through noon Sunday, with only brief pauses for food and hydration, he logged 100 miles in 27 consecutive hours (reaching his goal three hours before his targeted 30-hour mark) at the overnight Hamsterwheel – a unique challenge held annually at the Hillsborough County Fairgrounds in New Boston NH. Participants sign up to run 6, 12, 24, or the supreme challenge of 30 hours straight, and the point is not to be the fastest or the first, but to complete a total-miles goal the runners set for themselves.
Noting that the isolation and insecurity of the Covid pandemic has significantly increased levels of depression and suicide risk, through his fundraising page (https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/running-to-combat-suicide?fbclid=IwAR0cLLgwUq93ibtLdqNO6FWDr2dm-aa4wJHOqYcpX4rNNrqdPxyArErXRFM) Patrick raised over $19,000, well beyond his $10,000 goal, for Riverside’s suicide-prevention programs. Riverside offers a wide range of services for behavioral healthcare including trauma response and emergency services, and has just opened a new Behavioral Healthcare Center in Milford which will provide a much-needed expansion in access to care for people throughout south central Massachusetts.
Patrick’s purpose is grounded in his personal history. The youngest of three boys, he lost both older brothers to suicide – Kevin at age 16 when Patrick was just 12, and Daniel a little over a decade later at age 26. One of the things that Daniel and Patrick had done together to get through their grief after Kevin’s passing was to spend as much time as they could outdoors, roaming and running through the woods in central Massachusetts to find healing in nature.
Patrick joined his high school track team but was taking a bit of a running hiatus until about 12 years ago, when he was convinced by a friend to join a four-person marathon relay team – meaning his leg of the race was only about 6½ miles. That did the trick, and he was back on course, joining the Tri Valley Front Runners and again making running a central and cathartic part of his life. Over the past six months his disciplined training regimen has included four 50-mile runs to build endurance, and regular sessions out with the Front Runners and his training partner.
Patrick set the 30-hour Hamsterwheel challenge for himself with the determination to go “as far as his legs could carry him.” Although physically and mentally exhausted by the end, he had his brothers Kevin and Daniel beside him spiritually every step of the way. His success is a testament to that enduring dedication to family, to emotional health, and to the healing power of the outdoors – and a benefit to all of those people that Riverside Community Care can reach with behavioral healthcare and a message of hope to prevent suicide.