Virginia fire fighter runs 50 miles for behavioral health awareness

April 14 • 2023

Bagnell with his family at the IAFF Center of Excellence

Henrico County, VA Local 1568 member Michael Bagnell refused to let his struggles with PTSD define him. Instead, he turned his pain into purpose by running an incredible 50 miles between Hanover County and the IAFF Center of Excellence in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, raising $620 in the process. 

“I don’t want anyone to wait like I did to seek treatment for PTSD or any other behavioral health concerns,” said Bagnell. “Even though a lot has been done to remove the stigma for seeking treatment, it is still there. I know I felt it. So, there is more work to be done.” 

Ultra marathon running has been a key part of Bagnell’s recovery, so organizing a run to raise awareness and funds for the Center of Excellence made perfect sense, he said. Bagnell started a GoFundMe page for the run and recruited his wife and kids to be his road team during the run. He mapped out a route beginning near his home and aimed to complete as many of the 90 miles in between as possible. 

“My family was amazing,” he said. “They met me at several points along the route with water, food, and dry clothing. After 50 miles, I knew I was done. That’s when they drove me until we got just outside the center, where I found a little bit more energy to run the final piece of the route.” 

As a 15-year veteran of the Henrico Fire Department, Bagnell has responded to multiple traumatic incidents, and the effects were beginning to weigh on him. He didn’t think his issues were severe enough to warrant professional treatment until they continued to worsen.  

“Nothing I tried seemed to work long-term until I went to the center,” said Bagnell. “The clinicians there did a great job helping me understand PTSD and how to cope. Not every day is perfect, but I finally feel like I have my life back.”

He hopes to continue using his experiences to advocate for behavioral health and organize more fundraisers in the future.