A former mixed martial arts fighter, Justin True was no stranger to pushing through unimaginable pain to win in the octagon. However, this pain was different, and too much for him to overcome.
True’s first attempt to take his own life was not successful, so he tried again. When the second attempt also failed, True had a fundamental shift in his outlook on life. He emerged wanting to turn his life around, and to help others who are suffering and feeling hopeless. Since that day, True’s life has been a calling to help others.
“Being tortured by my brother, being held at knife point, water boarded, torched, and locked in dog kennels growing up that it taught me that no matter what card your dealt with you have to keep going,” True said. “You have to keep fighting and get back up.”
True’s new outlook on life has pushed him to create the True Triathlon — a roughly 50-mile swim from Key Largo, FL to Key Biscayne, FL, 3400-mile bike ride to San Diego, CA, and a 600-mile run in an effort to raise $500,000 for Mental Health Awareness Month. True also hopes to break the stigma surrounding mental health while showing others the “undeniable power of speaking their truth.”
While this might seem like a physically insurmountable task, True’s past mental and physical challenges have prepared him for this new test. His past endeavors include completing a tandem 150-mile bike ride through the Cascades in Oregon state, an Olympic Triathlon carrying a 90-pound concrete Thor hammer, a marathon while pulling a truck 26.2 miles, and a 29-day, nearly 500-mile, walk across Madagascar in which he encountered numerous life-threatening situations.
“The triathlon is such a perfect metaphor for what I’m trying to convey, ” True said. “Swimming in the ocean symbolizes life’s waves — sometimes you can't tell up from down, but eventually you’re going to hit a clear spot and at some point the rough part’s going to end.”
A hybrid-athlete who loves action sports, adventure sports and extreme sports, True found a passion for pushing himself to the limit early on through mixed-martial arts. He trained out of Bend, Oregon and traveled all around the world to hone his skill, including to gyms across the United States, Netherlands, Belgium and Asia. Still to this day, he draws on lessons he learned in the octagon to help him push through crippling depression and inspire others.
“Back in the fighting days, when pinned against the cage you had one of two options: Get up and keep fighting or accept defeat and get beat down even more,” True said. “You need to keep fighting whether it’s against life or the emotions in your head telling you to give up. Even if it’s just one more second those seconds add up to minutes then to days eventually those battles add up to winning the war.”
True hopes that the triathlon will serve as both and a platform for discussing mental health and a fundraising catalyst. He has invited anyone who is willing to join him along his route for as long as they would like. As he undertakes each leg, he hopes well-known athletes, actors, musicians and thought leaders will join Justin for segments, creating space to share their own stories. True plans to document the True Triathlon and the stories shared along the way as part of a feature film.
“When you’re struggling with depression, the next day might be tough, the next week might be tough, but eventually you’re going to hit a spot that’s so cool,” True said. “The struggle will always be worth it.”