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Four miles for mental health

Second annual McLaughlin race raises more than $4,000

By Andrew Wagstaff
Maritime Runner
May 17, 2017

DARTMOUTH, N.S. – Until he started running in January of 2015, Jon Hoskin had no idea that the sport had more than just physical benefits.
“I started running to heal an injury, so I was running to build my muscles up slowly,” he recalled. “At the time I was also dealing with some depression and anxiety, and I found running gave me a lot of relief from that.”
That connection between running and mental health came to his mind again a few months later when childhood friend Alex McLaughlin committed suicide. He wanted to start a run that would be both in memory of McLaughlin, a “great guy” and a gifted athlete, but would also help raise awareness of mental health issues.

(From left) Joel Aguinaga, Joann Lawless and Andrew Creaser were among the participants in the second annual McLaughlin 4 Miler in Dartmouth on Sunday, May 14.

Photo by Tim Chesnutt

He took the idea to another childhood friend, Noah Pohlkamp-Hartt, who was 100 per cent behind the idea and agreed to help organize it. The two had not only grown up together, but had also studied commerce together in university, and both had been friends of McLaughlin.
Pohlkamp-Hartt had also discovered the benefits of exercise as a tool. In high school, he and McLaughlin were both top athletes, and were even nominated for Athlete of the Year. But that changed after his school days.
“In my first year after university, I was really out of shape and really depressed too,” he recalled. “I finally just stopped drinking soda, started getting more active, and realized I was losing a bunch of weight. I started feeling better about myself… the idea of being active is key.”
The suicide of their old friend had also affected him.
“It was shocking because he was a pretty quiet guy, and nobody really expected it,” said Pohlkamp-Hartt. “We went to the funeral and saw a large amount of people and realized we haven’t been keeping in touch, or reaching out and talking about our lives with the people we grew up with.”
By January of 2016, their running event was starting to take shape. Another childhood friend, Liam O’Halloran, had joined the organizing team. They decided to do a four-mile race, because McLaughlin wore the number 4 when he played basketball for Acadia University. They measured a route around Lake Banook and Sullivan’s Pond in Dartmouth, a favourite running spot of Hoskin’s, and the McLaughlin 4 Miler was born.
The first event took place on June 12, 2016, drawing more than 200 registrants and raising $3,200 for the Student Athlete Mental Health Initiative (SAMHI), an organization the McLaughlin had already decided to support with a memorial basketball tournament for Alex.
Although the weather was not ideal that day, especially considering their was no indoor facility booked for pre- and post-run gathering, the friends considered it a great success and agreed to make it annual.
The second annual McLaughlin 4 Miler took place on Sunday, May 14, an earlier date so Hawthorne School could be booked as a headquarters (it is not available after May). Hoskin.
Although the registration of 176 runners was a bit smaller than last year – a drop Hoskin attributed to the scheduling change – the event raised more money than 2016, and will be making a donation in excess of $4,000 this year to SAMHI.
“It went great,” said Hoskin. “We had the weather on our side this time, so we were pretty happy with that.”
Among the participants was Tim “The American Runner” Price, a running coach from Pennsylvania who now lives in Bermuda. Price finished first in the race with a time of 22:06.
“I thought it was a great race, relatively flat and good conditions,” said Price. “Overall, it was a great local race with a good turnout and participation.”
That being said, not everything went as planned for The American Runner.
“I had a little bit of a mix-up with some directions during the race and took a little detour but got it all sorted,” he said, with a laugh. “It’s not the first, and I’m sure not the last time I’ve made route mistakes.”
Finishing second behind Price was Drew Moore at 22:37, followed by Greg Lummis at 22:47. Top females were Wendy Wierstra at 26:34, Marianne Bailey at 28:29 and Lia Wierstra at 28:45.
For complete full results by Atlantic Chip, visit here .
As for the future, the friends will continue with the McLaughlin 4 Miler and the cause of mental health.
“We’d like in the future to start our own mental health charity,” said Hoskin. “That’s the direction we’re going with this. We’re not sure yet exactly what services we will provide, but we do want to provide awareness.”