MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Twin Cities man accomplished a pretty remarkable feat Saturday.

Julio Salazar ran across the entire state of Minnesota.

He started his Break the Stigma run last Sunday at the South Dakota border. Salazar is hoping his run raises awareness about mental health.

If you break down the mechanics of running, it’s really very simple.

“Just one step at a time,” Salazar said.

But if you ask a runner what pushes them forward, the explanation is usually a bit more complicated.

“It teaches you all about life,” Salazar said.

He was in the final leg Saturday morning of a 240-mile run that propelled him across Minnesota.

“Today is our shortest distance, which is 17 miles,” Salazar said.

Yet this journey really wasn’t about miles traveled, but rather a measure of what he has overcome.

“I deal with depression myself and I dealt with it for a long time,” Salazar said. “And I, myself, was ashamed of talking about it.”

His Break the Stigma project is a way to start what can be a tough conversation for those dealing with depression and their loved ones.

Salazar remembered having suicidal thoughts in the deepest part of his depression, until a friend saw he was struggling and asked how she could help.

“If you care for someone, just ask the right questions,” he said. “You don’t have to say much, just ask how they are feeling,” Salazar said.

He eventually found help through therapy and support. Running, which was also a light out of his darkest moments, now allows him to raise awareness about depression and mental illness all over the state.

He has visited schools and clinics in several towns over the last six days to talk about mental health issues and raise awareness.

“It’s been awesome,” running partner Alex Eichman said. “People from five years old to 75 years old, he’s able to connect with them.”

Salazar has inspired others along the way, and found the support to keep going. Eichman has run next to Salazar since the beginning, and every day new runners join in.

“I’ve struggled with some things in the past myself, mental health things,” runner Jared Vanderhook said. “So I thought it was great that he’s running across state like this, and I wanted to jump in for at least a day.”

Salazar found the path to a healthy life, and running shoes aren’t required to follow in his footsteps.

“This is not about this run,” Salazar said. “It’s about giving people hope.”

Salazar and Eichman averaged about 30 miles a day. He says he plans to do this run again next year.

Click here to learn more about the Break the Stigma run.

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