Running for recovery: San Antonio man to run more than 800 miles to honor mom – San Antonio Express-News

SAN ANTONIO — Daylight has yet to break when Kenneth Anderlitch heads out with friends for his Friday morning run at Blanco Road and Loop 1604. He grinds out mile after mile, pushing his sweat-streaked, lean body to painful limits, as he has across San Antonio and Texas for the past five years.

From pavement to rocky terrain, Anderlitch, 34, runs for the thrill, spirit and fun. But the grueling pace isn’t about leaving the past behind but recognizing it.

Since childhood, he’s experienced poverty, prison, addiction, child abuse and homelessness. He benefited from support systems that helped him shed layers of grief built up for years.

“No matter what happened, I always want to look at what was my part,” Anderlitch said, “and, how can I grow from this?”

He also runs to raise awareness for programs that help people get into recovery and past trauma.

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The long-distance runner will take more steps forward in honor of his mother, who was born Thanksgiving week. On Friday, he will strike out on a run of more than 800 miles from El Paso to Logansport, La., for his mom, Diane Anderlitch, who died over 10 years ago.

He’s working with the nonprofit Pay it Forward, a residential partner at the Haven for Hope campus, where he started his road to recovery. Trailed by a support crew of friends and nonprofit members, Anderlitch plans to run 50 miles daily for two to three weeks.

“The whole point is bringing awareness to the program,” Anderlitch said. “The run is the easy part. It’s putting one foot in front of the other. Running is definitely a tool for me to use at a point when I may need it.”

He asked Hamilton Barton, CEO of Pay it Forward, if he could run to raise funds and spotlight the work the nonprofit offers. Barton said the work will be worth it if even a single homeless person addicted to drugs is inspired by Anderlitch and decides to get clean.

“Ken wants to run across the state, that’s great, but he’s not going to do it without us,” Barton said. “That shows what it’s like in every success that we experience that we do it together. ”

Kenneth Jacob Anderlitch trains with Bexar Run Crew. Starting Thanksgiving week, Anderlitch will begin a 856-mile run across Texas in memory of his mother and to raise awareness of people struggling with alcohol and drug abuse.

Kenneth Jacob Anderlitch trains with Bexar Run Crew. Starting Thanksgiving week, Anderlitch will begin a 856-mile run across Texas in memory of his mother and to raise awareness of people struggling with alcohol and drug abuse.

Jerry Lara, Staff / San Antonio Express-News

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Anderlitch’s fast lifestyle resulted in five and a half years in prison in his 20s. In 2015, he got sober for the first time, he said, without going to jail and being cut off from alcohol and drugs.

“I truly did want to change,” Anderlitch said.

It wasn’t easy. His first job was as a dishwasher. He quit smoking. He said Pay it Forward gave him resources and followed up.

“One of the foundational points was that there was some kind of accountability,” Anderlitch said, “but I still had the freedom of making choices for myself.”

He volunteered at Haven for two years, devoting time to talking to clients. Anderlitch is now a campus life center supervisor at Haven.

Haven is also where Anderlitch met Army veteran Roel Gonzalez, 38, who worked at the welcome center. At the time, Anderlitch didn’t have a stress outlet and was bitter. He recalled a day when he looked over Gonzalez’s shoulder as he scanned a run route.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

Gonzalez was training for a 100K run.

“I’m just looking at some routes,” Gonzalez said.

Kenneth Jacob Anderlitch trains with Bexar Run Crew. Starting Thanksgiving week, Anderlitch will begin a 856-mile run across Texas in memory of his mother.

Kenneth Jacob Anderlitch trains with Bexar Run Crew. Starting Thanksgiving week, Anderlitch will begin a 856-mile run across Texas in memory of his mother.

Jerry Lara, Staff / San Antonio Express-News

“Tcchh,” Anderlitch said. “I could do that.”

Gonzalez invited Anderlitch, who hadn’t run since middle school, to join him. Anderlitch slipped on a pair of old sneakers for his first run through the city. They ran from San Antonio College to the Tower of the Americas. During the 6-mile run, he was focused. There weren’t any thoughts of not smoking, his ex-girlfriend or the latest post on Facebook.

He tagged along for more runs until Gonzalez said it was time for him to strike out on his own. Among his long treks were runs from Austin to Corpus Christi and San Antonio to Austin in under 13 hours. In his first month of running, he ran a 50K.

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Anderlitch wakes up early before work for runs with his trail running crew. Guy Rubio, 40, who started the crew, said running brings out people’s authenticity and true self.

“There’s no pretentiousness,” Rubio said. “Everybody’s going the distance, doing that same effort. A lot of us are always inspired by Ken’s efforts.”

Recovery is the runner’s sanctuary. He’s grateful to those who helped him get sober, leave rehab and seek safe housing away from environments teeming with temptation. He often thinks of those he knew, people he’s worked with who are no longer here.

“This is the only nice, shiny thing that will stick with me the rest of my life,” Anderlitch said of recovery.

He’s pacing himself, embracing the journey.

And he’s steeling himself for when the run ends and the cameras and news coverage will stop. When the attention ceases, he’ll be left with his thoughts.

But there’s comfort in knowing he’ll have a support system he can lean on in times of need. Anderlitch’s friends said they’ll always be running by his side.

“If you want to go fast, go alone,” Gonzalez said. “If you want to go far, go together.”

vtdavis@express-news.net

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