On a bucolic stretch of two-lane highway in rural Iowa, Christian Griffith’s sustained gallop slows to a plodding trot. He’s already eclipsed the halfway point on his journey across the country. And although it appears nothing can stop Griffith from reaching his goal of running across the country, a hellaciously stiff headwind, blowing 27 knots out of the west, has slowed him down. Only for today, though. Tomorrow he will be back at it, running 15 miles in the morning and 15 more miles in the afternoon. He is exceeding the 26.2 miles of a marathon, everyday.
At this point, it’s unclear if Griffith is committed or should be committed. To his credit, he would probably agree that he’s as crazy as everyone thinks him to be. But what others think matters zilch to Griffith. He says he’s freed himself from that fear.
The Run2Heal, which benefits the Help for Children global non-profit organization, set off from Riverside Park in New York city on March 19 and will finish at the Presidio in San Francisco on August 23, “come hell or high water,” Griffith says emphatically. “If I gotta walk, I’ll walk. If I gotta crawl, I’ll craw. If I gotta slither, I’ll slither, but I will make it by August 23.”
Along the way, people are encouraged to sign up and run alongside Griffith in a number of predetermined 5K runs. Griffith is also working with local organizations in each city, educating them on how to be a voice for people struggling through physical and emotional trauma brought on by sexual abuse. Griffith continues to work every day from the road between runs, serving clients through his company Live for a Living, a digital strategy company. And he has a newborn daughter so fresh to the world that he took a few days hiatus from his run to go witness her birth. He was back in Chicago to continue the run just a few days after.
Griffith’s commitment comes from a life of juxtaposition; great success masking depraved secrets, the outer sheen of perfection hiding a broken man-child.
With a chiseled, tattooed frame holding up crystal-blue eyes and a mane of hair down past his shoulders, the 48-year-old Griffith is handsome and in excellent shape. He’s been a sponsored skateboarder and the vice president of a highly visible advertising agency. He has also been a habitual-womanizer and cocaine addict. Griffith had the big house and the expensive import, but he also had the heaviest of secrets weighing on his soul for decades.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina was home for Griffith from birth until he left for college. He lived beachfront in the small, tourist destination. His father was absent, and his mother was an alcoholic and a drug addict. It was Griffith’s mother who inflicted upon him the first of the sexual abuse he would endure as a child.
“I never wanted to go home,” Griffith says. “Even after the abuse had stopped, I didn’t know how to function around my mom. I had so many [expletive]-up feelings that I didn’t know how to deal with.” He was also sexually molested by two different men. He had no one to turn to for help. “When you are hanging out with your friends, the last thing you want them to know is that a man had sexually molested you. That was incredibly taboo. I did everything I could to make sure nobody knew.”
Skateboarding became an outlet and a refuge for Griffith during this period. Traumatized by his harrowing home life, teenaged Griffith would stay out all night skating. He’d forego his last two years of high school to travel and compete with the G&S skate team, while finishing his diploma from the road. He did well enough to earn admission to the University of South Carolina where he majored in computer science and marketing.
But the heinous experiences left Griffith unable to forge intimate relationships. “In college, I just churned through women, inflicting any type of manipulative tactic I could to get laid. Through therapy now, I realized that because of what my mother had done to me, I really hated women at that time,” Griffith admits. The conquests were about power, he says. “I was being rewarded by my peers for my ability to get women.”
The behavior followed him into his post-collegiate career, where he says he was aided and encouraged by bosses and colleagues to be a kind of hyper-masculine alpha. “I was being promoted and prompted. It [the womanizing] was making me money and making me friends, and it was making a lot of women hate me.” Griffith was able to meet a woman that he liked enough to marry and carried a marriage for the better part of decade before the cheating and a barely-managed cocaine habit destroyed everything. “I had finally just settled into the fact that maybe I was just a bad dude,” says Griffith about his mid-30s.
“Wow mate, now what?” This was the reply Griffith received from Damien Rider, a man Griffith credits for helping change his life. Rider himself was a victim of sexual abuse as a child and had since become a champion of treatment and recovery for victims of abuse in his native Australia. Griffith was so moved by Rider’s strength that on the plane ride back home from the Survival Run Australia in October 2015, he penned a message to Rider describing, in detail, the abuse that he had endured as a teen. It was the first time Griffith had ever shared the dark secret. Rider’s response would set in motion the events that put Griffith on a Nebraska highway today as he makes his way to the California coast.
“This run is a way for me to draw the most sustained attention to this cause. If I simply ran a marathon, few people would want to talk to me or donate,” Griffith says, applying his marketing savvy to his endeavor. “When I pitched the idea to Help for Children, I knew it was a big idea, but that’s (big) the only way I know how to go.”
“I have lost all fear of anyone else’s judgement. I did that for far too long and it got me nowhere,” Griffith says referring to both the run and his decision to be overtly candid about the abuse he endured. “When I share my story and details about my story, it shocks people, but it helps people understand that this is something we need to deal with. Child sexual abuse is a problem happening all around us at all times, but people aren’t talking about it and that’s a problem.”
“I’m trying to take care of myself,” Griffith says referring to the healing and therapy he is undertaking, “but I have a mission and I’m putting most everything ahead of myself. When I get tired or worn, I just remind myself that I can always take one more step.”