How Running Changed Me – Michael Savage

Last name: Michael Sauvage
Age: 38
Hometown: Sidney, Ill.
Occupation: HVAC Sales
Execution time : 13 years total intermittently

As a teenager, I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and constantly got into trouble. I started smoking cigarettes and marijuana and stealing alcohol at a very young age. And by the age of 15, I had already started using cocaine, LSD and ecstasy frequently.

Prescription pills took hold of me at a young age and led me to opiate addiction. At the height of my addiction, I was homeless and living on the streets. I was the guy you would see at a freeway exit holding a sign asking people for money. I tried to quit opiates by going to a methadone clinic and taking methadone (an FDA-approved drug in the opioid family, used to treat opioid use disorder) and found himself more dependent on this drug.

At the clinic, I also met tons of heroin addicts who introduced me to this drug. Being a drug addict landed me in jail and almost cost me my life several times, and every relationship in my life was broken as a result. I tried to kill myself and frequently found myself in psychiatric units, treatment centers, halfway houses, and drug rehabilitation centers.

The worst of my overdoses was the week of February 4, 2015, where I had a total of three heroin overdoses in one week. I was found unconscious with a needle in my arm. During one such overdose, I had locked myself in a bathroom with my back to the door and my feet against the vanity so no one could open the door. My father, who had tried to intervene, came into my apartment and broke down the door to get me out. He gave me CPR and called 911.

The paramedics gave me several doses of Narcan to try to save my life, and I was put on a ventilator in intensive care due to fluid in my lungs and pneumonia. After nine very scary days in intensive care, by the grace of God, I woke up.

At this point, I had a decision to make: either run away like a coward, or run to my failures and take responsibility for my life. At that time, my wife was six months pregnant with our first child, so I made the decision to find help at a faith-based recovery center for men called Connection to the lifeline in Urbana, Illinois, it completely changed my life.

Lifeline-connect is a one-year residential program, so I knew I was going to be there for a while. One of my mentors in the program, RJ Eaton, was fit and challenged me to get fit spiritually, mentally and physically. Until then, my lungs were in poor condition. I smoked two packs of cigarettes a day for over a decade.

I had been running intermittently since the first time I went to lifeline-connect in 2009. And after my relapse in 2015, I started running again this time, and at first I could barely run a tenth of a mile without m ‘stop because my lungs hurt.

One day while I was running someone saw me running in a very old pair of worn out shoes that were falling apart and blessed me with a brand new pair of Saucony shoes which really encouraged me. A tenth of a mile turned into two and then half a mile, and with day-to-day regularity, it didn’t take long for me to be running several miles each day.

By the end of my time at Lifeline-connect, I was running five miles a day, five days a week. As I continued my recovery, I kept running and fell in love with it.

In 2019 I ran the Illinois Half Marathon and I remember thinking back then how hard it was to run a half marathon. But after that run, I realized that running helped me build mental toughness to stay strong in other areas of my life. Running helped me have the same mental toughness to not give up on longer runs, which is the same mental toughness that helped me not give in to temptation in tough times.

Since then, I have run three full marathons, one a personal run of 26.2 milesthen a 35 mile ultra which was not a sanctioned event. I also established a PR at the Illinois Half Marathon last spring, finishing in 1:42, and also grew to love mountain and road cycling.

To keep pushing the bar, I signed up and completed the Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga this year and ended with a time that I was satisfied to accomplish. My goal is to summit all 58 14-ers (mountains above 14,000 feet in elevation) in Colorado.

Currently, my running schedule is between 25 and 35 miles per week. Once in a while I sign up for a 5K, 10K, marathon or triathlon to stay motivated as I really enjoy the runner/cyclist/triathlete community. I’ve actually bonded with a number of local athletes who are now friends of mine and can meet them for runs or rides.

Next on my list of running goals is to do a 50 mile ultramarathon and then a 100 km run.

Overall, running makes me feel alive and accomplished. This is one of my moments of personal devotion where I express my gratitude to my God for keeping me alive. Thanks to running, I now have a good life with my three beautiful children: Eden, Amaeya and Summit. My wife, Maegan, is my biggest cheerleader. She is my rock who has stayed by my side, always encouraging and believing in me. I am so grateful to be able to tuck my three beautiful children to sleep at night and be their father. The one thing running hasn’t prepared me for is raising these three kids ages 2, 4 and 6 – talk about an endurance test!

Special thanks to my 2 year old Siberian Husky, Slushy, who has been my running partner over the years. I train regularly with him because he holds me accountable when I run. He’s ready to go every day at 5:30 a.m., rain or shine, and he’s helped me improve. We all need a husky in our lives: personally, spiritually and professionally.

For anyone reading this, I want them to know that no matter what struggle they are going through, there is an opportunity to come out of the fire stronger than before. Sometimes it takes a fire in our lives to cleanse and burn away all the impurities that were holding us down. Now is the time to get up, tie up your shoes and walk. If I can do it, anyone can do it.

These three trips made my running journey a success:

1. Smile when you run

It helps me remember why I like it.

2. Practice gratitude

When running gets hard, I try to remind myself how lucky I am to be able to run. I am blessed to have found this path, while others close to me lost their lives.

3. Run wherever you travel

I run everywhere, even on vacation or at a friend’s or family’s house out of state to keep the spirit of adventure alive!

Michael’s essential equipment

Saucony Kinvara 13 for men (running): I love Saucony shoes for running because they are extremely light and comfortable. I also love that they come in super bright colors.

Hoka Clifton 8 (Training): I love the Hoka shoes for all my longer training runs because they are so comfortable, like running on clouds. I call them my full suspension shoes.

Garmin Forerunner 945: I love my Garmin watch because it does literally everything from recording my triathlon to mountain biking to hiking. I also like that it’s not extremely big and heavy.

body slip: It helps keep me from chafing during all the activities I do, especially running and hiking. This stuff works wonders for me and I haven’t had any chafing issues since using this product.

ScratchLabs Sport Superfuel Drink Mix: It gives me carbs and works great for my stomach. It tastes great and it’s not super thick. This keeps me strong during long endurance events!

GU energy gels: These gels are always a go-to for a quick fix of caffeine and fuel. I really enjoy the espresso, coffee, salted watermelon and creme d’orange flavors.

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