Central Park as the starting point: why running is an anchor for mental health

Estimated read time 5 min read

OddsJam CEO Matt Restivo explains how running has shaped his personal and professional life as he champions the benefits of exercise to support a healthy mind
The post Central Park as the starting point: why running is an anchor for mental health first appeared on EGR Intel.  

In the ebb and flow of life’s challenges, I have found a consistent ally in running. For the past 13 years, this relationship has culminated with the New York City Marathon, the largest spectator event in the world, on the first Sunday in November. It is a testament to my resilience, a celebration of my personal commitment, and is the anchor for my mental health.

Running isn’t just a physical activity for me; it is an anchor of my life.  It is the promise of reaching a finish line that propels me forward – not just the literal one marked in the streets of New York, but the symbolic ones that represent overcoming personal hurdles. After each race, as my race day adrenaline fades, and PMD (Post Marathon Depression) briefly sets in, I find that the real daily race continues – the ongoing marathon of life.

Every mile I log in training and competing is a mile toward a healthy mind. The rhythmic pounding of my feet against the trails, the disciplined pacing of my breath, the meticulous planning of routes and schedules are not just elements of training, but also rituals that bring stability to my life.

The importance of having “that next race” on my calendar cannot be overstated. It is a beacon that guides my daily choices – pushing me to lace up my shoes on days I’d rather not, to push the kids five miles to daycare in the double stroller, to choose a Spindrift over a beer, and to turn off the screen earlier to let my body rest. These choices aren’t just about fitness; they are about fortifying my mental health to enable me to meet the challenges that life throws my way.

Last year, I faced one of my toughest challenges yet. I was in the best physical condition, training consistently and playing pick-up hockey on a rare free evening when I crashed into the boards, chest first, and broke my left clavicle. The accident shelved me for six weeks. The timing was merciless, coming just as my daughter was turning six months old, an age when every day brings new demands for our family’s attention and energy. The injury, though physical, carried with it an emotional toll of frustration, regret and guilt. I wrestled with the frustration of forced inactivity and the guilt of not being able to care for my daughter as I wanted.

Mind over matter

I used my training to focus on what I could do; what was within my control: Nutrition, mental exercises and planning for the comeback while assisting my family in every way I possibly could. That November, I ran my fastest New York City Marathon ever – my 13th in a row. It was more than a Personal Best; it was a triumph of mind over matter.

Injuries, as brutal as they are, teach resilience. They are the practical exams in the course of life, testing whether I can apply the mental fortitude running has taught me. This article “Keeping Your Head in the Game Dealing with the Mind Fuck of Injury and Ilness”, has been shared with many friends who have dealt with similar setbacks and injuries. It discusses openly the mental turmoil that comes when your body’s capabilities are suddenly stripped away. Yet, each setback has reinforced my resolve, each recovery has taught me more about my mental and physical limits.

As I write this, I’m again recovering from a hockey injury. This time, a high ankle sprain accompanied by torn ligaments and tendons. Just weeks before I was supposed to run the London Marathon, I was shelved. The decision to undergo surgery was difficult but calculated, as it puts me on pace for a return to the streets of New York for a 14th marathon.

The New York City Marathon is more than a race. It’s a narrative of resilience, a reassertion of one’s capabilities and a renewal of one’s commitment to mental health.  Each year as we start the first 100 feet of the race on the Verrazano bridge, I turn to my best friend and race partner, Karen, and tell her, “this is so sad, it’s almost over”. But I have learned that the marathon is not the end; it’s an invitation to begin again, with renewed vigour and refined purpose for the next marathon life sets in my path.

Through each injury, each recovery and each marathon, I’m reminded of why I run: for the strength it builds, the clarity it brings and the unparalleled joy of knowing that no matter what life throws my way, I have the power to overcome it – one step, one mile, one marathon at a time.

Matt Restivo, renowned for his innovative approach in the digital sports media industry, is the newly appointed CEO of OddsJam. With a mission to provide the best data tools and educational content to sports bettors worldwide, OddsJam has rapidly ascended in the sports betting space with its “Bloomberg terminal”-like tools. Restivo has been an adviser to the business since late 2021. He has consistently demonstrated his expertise at the intersection of technology and sports. In 2018, he joined the Action Network as chief product officer, where he was instrumental in driving product innovation and transforming the user experience for early US sports bettors. His achievements include developing Bet Sync (patented), launching Bet Win Probability and growing the user base from fewer than 10,000 to over five million MAUs.

The post Central Park as the starting point: why running is an anchor for mental health first appeared on EGR Intel.


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