The morning sky was the color of lead, the air was barely above freezing and the only sound was the crunch of dead leaves as Ryan Mains began a 10-mile run through Crystal Lake’s Veteran Acres Park.
He has come here for years to build his stamina on the park’s steep hills, preparing for races that stretch well beyond a marathon. But he also treasures the stillness. When he runs, observed by a few placid deer and the occasional owl, the memories that trouble him vanish like mist.
They always come back, though. He can never run far enough to escape them completely.
Mains, 39, is a veteran of the Iraq war and a longtime Woodstock firefighter and paramedic who has been diagnosed with a severe case of post-traumatic stress disorder. The symptoms built slowly over years, ultimately becoming so pronounced that a few months ago Mains had to leave the job that he loved.