Long-distance cycling helps Central Ohio veteran cope with PTSD

CHILLICOTHE, OH (WCMH) – Chillicothe native Joe Lawhorn broke two world records last year on his bicycle. Now, his sights are set on finishing the Race Across America in June.

In this race, the clock never stops. Lawhorn has 12 days to make it from Oceanside, California to Annapolis, Maryland (https://www.gojoeraam.org/). The race itself is grueling physically and mentally, but there’s something that always keeps Joe pedaling through what many would call insufferable pain.

“I’ve already made up in my mind there’s one of two ways that this is going to go,” said Lawhorn. “I’m either going to fall over dead or I’m going to cross the finish line.”

Joe Lawhorn has a long journey ahead of him, 3,082 miles to be exact. He’s an ultra-endurance rider, meaning he can pedal 400 miles on two-wheels in less than 24 hours.

“When you ride 200-300 miles straight, you start to hurt and I think about my brothers that didn’t come home,” said Lawhorn

He served his country in the Marines and Army for 12 years.

“I went into the military when I was 17. I thought it was my honor, a duty to do it,” said Lawhorn. “I did several combat tours. I was just a regular infantryman.”

He was there for the Invasion of Afghanistan and served in an anti-terrorism unit, searching vehicles and personnel, looking for IED’s and weapons.

“I was in the military for so long that to me that wasn’t a job. It wasn’t a career. That was my identity,” he said. “I kind of went out not on my own terms.”

Lawhorn was placed on a permanently disabled retirement list, suffering from PTSD.

“It’s hard to accept. At first, I didn’t think I had problems,” he said. “I was going through a really dark period. I still have really rough days, hard days.”

There are certain triggers in his life today that remind him of his military service abroad.

“I can’t do crowds,” he said. “I did the Panerathon a couple of years ago and they had us in the crowd, lots of people. They had a drone flying over head with a GoPro taking pictures, photographers on the roof top and it was like I was on patrol in Kabul again.”

Battling PTSD and struggling with the loss of his identity, he started riding.

“It’s given me a new life,” he said. “It’s the only way I know how to honor the guys that gave more than me.”

Come June, his goal is simple.

“Definitely to finish it,” he said.

He’ll keep pedaling, training through freezing cold rain to a destination that will help him cope. Chillicothe is Lawhorn’s safe place.

“It’s huge for me to be able to ride through my hometown,” he said. “If I can get here, I know I’ve got the race in the bag.”

But, when he starts feeling tired there’s something on his mind that always keeps him pedaling.

“Some of my friends that have missing limbs or are in a wheel-chair… I have a friend that will never be able to see his daughter because of his eyes and I will push for them,” he said.

The Race Across America will take Lawhorn through three mountain ranges, two deserts and the plains. He’s expected to ride through Chillicothe during the race on June 19th or 20th. His team is also looking for volunteers to help him along the route, CLICK HERE for the details.

If you or a veteran you know is in crisis and needs help, CLICK HERE for more information.

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