My Facebook question was simple, poignant, and nationally collective; “Where were you?” The day was 9/11, and Ed Henley’s answer was just as simple and poignant. “Benton County Detox.”
Until then, this guy was just Ed… who really liked to run… a lot. I met him on a hike up Mt. Cashmere in 2015. He was pleasant to listen to and a wealth of knowledge, and shoes and running were his forte. At that time, he was training for his first marathon and shared his training plan, nutrition and philosophies with the rest of us seemingly without struggling for breath while we trudged up, up, up the mountain.
After that hike we friended each other on Facebook and waved while we passed each other on Run Wenatchee Thursdays. I’m not saying I became a groupie or anything like that, but it is fun to watch Ed’s fitness, mile progression and racing accomplishments unfold on social media before me. Ok, maybe I am a little bit of a groupie…
Anyway, his answer to the Facebook question piqued my interest. I wanted to know his story. He accepted my request for an interview and we sat down at South in Pybus Market while his beautiful fiancé, Megan, and my friend Heather, waited graciously for us. His story is nothing less than inspirational. I already respected him because of his passion for health, fitness and running, but it skyrocketed when I realized all he’s overcome in life as well.
Ed was a troubled, bipolar meth addict and in September of 2001 he found himself in a dismal state. The best definition of an addict I’ve ever heard is: “When you can quit you don’t want to, and when you want to, you can’t.” That’s where Ed was. He finally wanted to quit, but was incapable of resisting, so he set his mind on completely ruining his life. He determined to go full bore down the path of meth abuse and let anything that mattered go. Then, miraculously things changed on an unusually still, silent morning.
He readily gave credit for his turn around to Divine intervention, but prefaced that part of the interview with a cautious look my way and the warning that what he was about to say was going to sound a little weird. Being the God fearing woman I am, I got a little excited and encouraged him to continue. He said he remembers the moment with acute clarity to this day. He had an old, green cordless phone in his hand, ready to call someone he couldn’t get a hold of. He felt a distinct presence behind him but there was nothing there, and he knew it. Nothing there but a box of forgotten books, one of which was an old King James version of the Bible, remnants left from a stint in jail. It was the Word of God itself that Ed felt behind him. Unable to resist, he picked up the Bible and it flopped open to Psalm 25 and he knew it was his chance to get clean.
On September 9th 2001 Ed practically begged his girlfriend at the time to take him to none other than, Benton County Detox. He’d heard it was a great place to get clean and told her to get there fast because an addict like him would change his mind if too much time lapsed. She did, and when the planes crashed into the Twin Towers, Pentagon and Shanksville field, Ed was watching in shock with fellow patients and the doctors and medical staff at the detox center.
From there life changed but not necessarily for the better at first. For the most part Ed was able to stay clean but his bipolar symptoms reared their ugly head and left his life in shambles from the consequences. His marriage was ruined and ultimately dissolved, his son was collateral damage, his life was in limbo.
And then he started running.
At first it was all about revenge. He had a girlfriend who ran and when she broke up with him, Ed decided to run too and become the best and fastest and win all the local races and show her just who she’d passed up. It took a while and plenty of research, reading and trial and error but, eventually, Ed became a regular at local trail runs and races, but the ex-girlfriend was nowhere to be found. It didn’t matter, by then Ed was hooked and was running for himself.
Ed enjoyed all aspects of running immensely; from the research to the training, to the shoe fitting and connecting with other long distance runners like his good buddy, Chad. Running became a passion and in the wake of his new lifestyle Ed found a surprising fringe benefit; the excessive running curbed many of his bipolar symptoms. He explained the science and theory behind it to me; the jist of it is that the tremendous amount running causes his body to produce and release chemicals in such a way that it actually inhibits the undesirable symptoms of bipolar without the nasty side-effects experienced with medications.
And so because of his passion for it and the health benefits of it, running is Ed’s lifestyle and he doesn’t see himself slowing his pace anytime soon. In fact, just two weekends ago Ed finished his race of the Cuyamaca 100K, a grueling 63.2 mile ultra run through the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park and includes a summit of the park’s highest peak, which stands at 6500’.
As impressive as a 100K sounds, Ed’s shooting for an even loftier goal of one hundred miles, and yet, he didn’t get from revenge to one hundred miles in his sights over night. He started small with a simple training schedule called the C to 5K. This training plan is designed to get a non-runner from the Couch to a 5K (3.1 miles) run over a span of weeks. From there, Ed gorged on Ted Talks and running books, a few favorites were, “Running Your First Ultra” by Krissy Moehl, and “Once a Runner” by John L. Parker. He started following more intensive training plans, researching on the internet and following local and world-renowned ultra runners. He ran a few 5Ks before moving up to half marathons, which were a killer for him. And then in the fall of 2015 he made his first marathon debut. He couldn’t remember his time when we were talking but remembered that he finished the Oktoberfest marathon of 2015 in terrible shape, but his desire for the next bigger and better race got a hold of him. Despite constant runner’s pain like plantar fascitis and minor knee injuries he completed two more marathons in 2016 before jumping into ultras. This year, he’s completed not only the Cuyamaca 100K but also the Gorge Waterfalls 100K last April. He’s aiming at qualifying and winning his spot into the Western States 100, a one hundred mile ultra-run with a lottery-style entry system.
In the mean time, Ed trains faithfully. He favors early morning runs but can also be found on the Apple Capital Loop trail on Thursdays running with fellow Run Wenatchee trail-mates and ultra runners. Recently Ed’s worked yoga into his routine and is a regular at Beyoutiful Yoga’s hot yoga sessions and enjoys the benefits the practice adds to his physical and mental health. Ed sees many more races and goals in his future, it seems the only thing he doesn’t see is an end to his running lifestyle. It will be fun to follow his progression and cheer him on as he grows as an ultra runner and reaches for ever more lifetime health and fitness goals. You can follow him too on Instagram at: edhenleyii