RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A Raleigh man who has overcome his addictions also won't let the pandemic hold him back, and he's pushing himself to his limits.
Jon Frey just became the first person to finish and win the Three Bears 100 -- a 100-mile race in Idaho.
"They have been doing it for about five years and it's a smaller race, but a bunch of people had attempted the 100-mile distance and nobody had finished it," Frey said. "That was kind of one thing I looked forward to when I got out there. It was a really tough wilderness race down in southwestern Idaho. I got about halfway through it, and I thought all I have to do is finish this thing. I ended up winning and it was a really neat experience."
The course is 78 percent trail and 22 percent dirt road with an elevation gain and drop around 20,000 feet each. Frey finished the 100 miles in 27 hours.
"I've learned for a while that Jon is a pretty unique individual and amazing person," said Alex Warren, the owner of Runologie. "If he puts his mind to it, he's going to accomplish it."
Frey said taking things one at a time is the key.
"I look back on things, and I would kind of put restrictions on myself saying I couldn't do this, I couldn't do that," Frey said. "It's just one step at a time, one mile at a time. It just applies to everything in my life. I can relate to running is you take all of these things in small steps eventually you can accomplish what anybody else has."
That mindset started in August 2016 when Frey checked himself into Healing Transitions to begin recovery for his drug and alcohol addiction. He ran his first 100-mile race in the spring of 2018 and just finished his eighth.
"Jon's unique accomplishment of being an Ultra runner is one example of the potential people can achieve when they are in recovery," said Executive Director of Healing Transitions Chris Budnick. "People find their potential in all sorts of ways."
Running has been a constant in Frey's life since.
"Running has just kind of, it's a time, a consistent thing every day," he said. "It's always there. It's a time to reflect. A time to meditate, look at where I've been in the past, and where I want my life to go. It's also a time to meet other people in recovery for fellowship and for staying healthy and sane in crazy times like this that we're having right now,"
It is one thing he can control right now in these uncertain times and has helped him maintain focus during the pandemic.
"If I've done anything, it's increased my running time for sure." he said. "It's something that for my mental health that I need to run every day."
Warren, whose Runologie is the only independently owned and operated specialty running store in Raleigh, understands that mindset.
"I think running is an extremely constructive way to exercise both your body and your mind," Warren said. "A lot of people discover that as they go through Healing Transitions. Everyone is encouraged to do some sort of physical activity. On Tuesday nights, they have the run club and that gets participants out and it gives them an outlet they've never explored before. Once you get hooked into running, it helps you greatly. Jon is a testament to that."
Frey's drive and willingness to share his story is continuing to inspire others in recovery.
"Guys like Jon do a lot for people who are in need of recovery," Budnick said. "One of the most important things that they do is they offer hope from sitting in detox and being hopeless, the message that he can offer to somebody who's just showing up and trying to figure out am I able to get into recovery. If I do, is there a life that's waiting for me out there? He's a living example of that."
Frey is hosting his third annual 24-hour run to raise money for Healing Transitions on December 19 at Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh. Click here for more information