The Lighthouse Fitness Project is an opportunity to share and grow the vision, mission and focus of the Platte River Fitness Series through the stories and photographs of 10 individuals who have generously agreed to let us share their journey to wellness and the “Lighthouses” who helped guide them. Click here for more posts from the Lighthouse project.

Tara Hanna

Tara Hanna

There is a certain wholeness inherent in the design of a human being. Our bodies were clearly designed for movement, a masterpiece of engineering. When our bodies are being used in a way that is compatible with their design, there is a kind of homeostasis of body, mind and soul. While we are moving, our bodies release endorphins, natural analgesics that control the discomfort that might arise from the work of heart, lungs, muscles and joints. Our bodies reward us for our efforts.

Endorphins also have an affect on the chemistry in the brain. Empirically, everyone who runs knows that magical place in your run where your mind opens, your thoughts expand, and everything comes more sharply into focus. Clinically, endorphins have been shown in at least 26 different scientific studies to make us happy. The secret is an understanding that it doesn't happen right away, but if you keep going, it does happen. Endorphins won't keep bad things from happening, struggles from arising, but they do provide a way for our own bodies to help us cope. Ask any runner, the best cure for a bad day is a good, long run.

Tara Hanna knows this reality. She knows what it is like to feel less than whole. She also knows what it feels like to be made new through running. Tara is courageous in her willingness to share her story because, as she said, "it may help someone else." This takes a special strength.

Tara's journey began in Michigan, the place she called home. A Nebraska Sandhills rancher became the love of her life, and she moved to the beautiful isolation of an Arthur County, Neb., ranch — a new home and a new way of life to learn. Tara was already the mother of a daughter, and she and Shawn had two sons.

Following the birth of her first son, Tara struggled with postpartum depression. Her second son was born soon after. One in 10 women will suffer a significant episode of postpartum depression. Tara, working with her physician, proactively worked to combat the hormonal changes that can lead to postpartum depression with her second son.

Tara Hanna

Tara Hanna

Statistically speaking, women suffer from depression of all types more than men. We famously "eat our feelings," treating our blue feelings with chocolate and ice cream. Weight gain becomes a part of the viciousness of the cycle of depression.

Tara knew she had to do something to keep depression from robbing her of her joy. What Tara did was run. Her weight loss since that time is about 100 pounds. Running became the lighthouse that guided her back from the darkness of depression.

According to recent statistics there is a 20% increase in depression diagnosis each year in the U.S., and more than 80% of people who have symptoms do not receive any treatment. Most stunning is the statistic that states with higher rates of depression also show the highest rates of other negative health outcomes such as obesity, heart disease and stroke. Depression costs millions each year in healthcare expenses. Studies are now finding that the single most effective treatment for depression may be exercise.

Tara is a beautiful, giving, caring example of what running can do. She also credits her "lighthouses" like Kelly Crymble, Lauren Klima, and a community of runners within one small community, the running women of Arthur County, as guiding lights.

Triumphant and brilliant, she, herself, has become a lighthouse for others.

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