Manosh gears up


Avid endurance athlete and local community member Stephanie Manosh is gearing up for a 100-mile snowshoe race beginning in Pittsfield, Vermont, on March 10, where she will be trekking through the region’s myriad trail systems with a purpose.

Manosh recently launched an ongoing fundraiser through the online fundraising community, Generosity, with all proceeds benefitting Lamoille County Mental Health Services (LCMHS) in Morrisville.

After going public about her families’ loss of her uncle Stuart Manosh last year to suicide on her fundraising page, Manosh says she is competing in this 100-mile ultra-marathon snowshoe race to raise awareness in her community for what she notes as an oft-misunderstood subject in mental illness.

“A lot of times there’s a lot of stigma surrounding illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder than there is around something like a DUI,” said Manosh. “People can openly talk about getting DUIs, but if you talk about maybe struggling with depression or mental illness or something like that, it is frequently frowned upon. Those are personal problems.”

The Peak 2017 Snowshoe Race is run by the Pittsfield-based endurance event organization, Peak Races, founded in 2005 by endurance athletes. After competing in this event multiple times, Manosh says she is fueled by her charitable cause for this particular race more than ever.

“I’m very familiar with this race,” she said. “Doing this race again just for myself is really not enough anymore. It feels good to bring an extra layer to it and an extra sense of meaning. That’s what I was really hoping to get out of it.”

Manosh has a background with ultra-running, which is something akin to the 100-mile snowshoe race for runners, and notes for those aspiring to compete in such an event that preparation is both time and energy-intensive.

“I’m doing a race at the end of this month,” said Manosh. “As of right now, I’m signed up for a 60k [kilometer], but I might bump it down to a marathon… I usually go out and hike with people, we usually do a 30-mile hike on the Long Trail or something. It’s a good way to prepare and get a lot of time on your feet, basically. You just get used to being tired and hurting and pushing your body forward. Being really well prepared for this race — you’re always going to be tired — it doesn’t matter how much training you do beforehand, you’re going to reach the point where you’re tired.”

Manosh says she hopes to break 70 miles on the arduous terrain in potentially freezing weather.

Aside from the race itself, one initiative Manosh highlights from LCMHS’ efforts is the organization’s work in helping Lamoille County become and stay a “Zero Suicide Area,” an effort she says is aimed at keeping Lamoille County suicide-free.

“I think it’s an admirable goal,” said Manosh. “It’s really difficult to get funding in rural areas for these programs. I think it’s incredibly important for that reason alone. …we’re really secluded out here and getting the appropriate treatment is often difficult if you can’t make it into Burlington. [You need] a wide range of professionals. You need people here who can triage and recognize and understand mental health issues and get people where they need to be. That’s really what Lamoille County Mental Health Services does.”

“Also, it’s kind of morbid, but in rural counties people tend to have a lot of guns,” she added. “That can be an issue; you live in a rural area and sometimes you don’t have therapists around . . . Talking about those things are hard.”

Throughout her experiences with seeing some of her family members struggle with mental illness, Manosh says her understanding of mental illnesses like paranoid schizophrenia became clearer as she grew up with her uncle, whom she described as being an intelligent man who was an “avid” outdoorsman on her fundraising webpage.

“Ever since I was a little kid I knew Stuart — he was someone who I grew up talking to and grew accustomed to his mannerisms and his different way of interacting with the world. It was through that lens that I became familiar with mental illness,” she said.

This race, Manosh says, could eventually develop into an annual fundraiser or memorial to help bring awareness to mental illnesses like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression and anxiety.

“I hadn’t thought about [it], but now I’m thinking about it,” said Manosh. “After a while I might want to bump it down to a marathon distance. A hundred miles is a really intense race to train for. The time commitment is kind of big, but in the future I might be willing to do a marathon every year. A hundred miles is a lot.”

Additionally, she says something of a correlation may exist between endurance athletes and mental illness, as the physically-strenuous activities allow those struggling with said illnesses to alleviate their symptoms.

“One thing that I’ve always noticed or has been brought to my attention is that there’s a lot of overlap between endurance racing and mental health,” said Manosh. “I don’t think it’s immediately apparent, but a lot of times within the endurance scene — not myself personally — but I know other people who come from a background of addiction or mental health issues or just traumatic experiences.”

Manosh says endurance races serve as a release from many of the symptoms of mental health illnesses and uses the analogy of a never-ending battle to characterize running endlessly and issues of mental illness.

Donations can still be made to Manosh’s fundraiser to benefit LCMHS at–2. Meanwhile, registration for the 100-mile snowshoe race and shorter races in Pittsfield on March 10 and 11 can be found on Peak Races’ website under the “Peak Snowshoe Race” tab.