- Associated Press - Sunday, August 31, 2014

ROANOKE, Va. (AP) - Twenty-two years ago, Tony Smith said he almost ended his own life.

Then 13, he said he had fallen into a deep depression and even had his suicide planned out before finding a different way to relieve his pain.

“Now looking back, I really feel like, with God’s help of course, running saved my life,” said Smith, of Pulaski.

Following actor Robin Williams’ suicide on Aug. 11, Smith said he was moved to help others struggling with similar pains, in a similar way -by running.

On Aug. 16 he filed a letter of resignation from his job of 12 years as a mail carrier, and the next day he completed the first 14 miles of the estimated 10,000-mile cross-country run he hopes to complete to raise awareness for suicide and depression.

“I packed up a few essentials and just left . I said, ‘I just need to go do this,’” Smith said.

If completed, the trek will take him from his Pulaski home to Virginia Beach, north through Washington D.C. to New York before heading west to San Francisco.

Smith plans to then travel south to San Diego and head east through Texas to Jacksonville, Florida, where he will begin his final march home.

He expects the run will take about year, and though he plans to utilize his savings, he hopes to also gain sponsors as he goes by way of free meals or a free night’s stay.

Should such opportunities for housing not come, Smith is prepared to sleep outdoors, running with a jogging stroller packed with clothes, toiletries and a sleeping bag - just in case.

Smith said that leaving his job, his wife, Rachel, and his two children so quickly to spend the next year on the road was a risky move. However he said his faith in God made him confident he was doing the right thing.

“I feel like he is the one that led me to do this,” Tony Smith said. “I just feel like God has his hand there protecting me.”

Rachel Smith said she believes her husband’s faith played a major role in his decision and the experience would have a positive effect on the blended family, which includes Tony Smith’s 11-year-old daughter from a previous marriage and the couple’s 2-year-old son.

“It’s going to bring us close, as we learn how to depend on each other, and it’s definitely going to grow us closer to God because we have to depend on him and trust him,” she said.

This isn’t the first time Rachel Smith has seen her husband run for the purpose of helping others.

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