Running for Mental Health

On August 5th, myself and 20 mates took part in the Brisbane Half-Marathon with the ultimate goal of raising $21,000 for Livin’. The notion was for 21 of us to run 21km as 21-year-olds and in doing so, raise $21,000 through donations and fundraisers for our charity of choice. With limited prior running experience, I knew it was going to be a challenge, but the opportunity to run for Livin’ and the sense of achievement to complete the half-marathon with some of my closest friends was too enticing to ignore.

Livin’ is a charity whose aim is to break the stigma of mental health by promoting wellness and healthy living for young people through awareness and early education. One in seven young people are affected by some sort of mental health challenge each year, and a substantial amount deal with this in silence. Livin’ encourages those affected to speak up and talk about their feelings and challenges because “It Ain’t Weak to Speak”.

As a group, we unanimously decided to run for Livin’ because the organisation’s purpose is inspiring and as mental health in young Australians applies directly to our demographic, we felt it was only right to run for those around us be it at work, university or in our sports teams, who may be facing a mental health challenge presently. I have never been significantly affected by the challenges that can come with mental health however I understand the severity of it and how those suffering may approach them alone – whether they want to or not. By raising money for the Livin’ organisation and sharing their objectives on our individual social media pages, combined with acknowledging and increasing awareness concerning youth mental health to those close to us, through explaining what our group hoped to achieve; we intended to highlight the issue within our social groups and let anyone affected know that they do not have to endure their mental challenges alone.

Our training for the run began three months prior to race day. We had group runs every week that extended in length as our training got more intense. The longer runs were tough but to have your mates around you doing it too was awesome and after each run there was a sense of comradery which I had never felt in other environments such as university or social gatherings like 21st birthdays. These group runs gave me so much confidence for the half-marathon knowing that we would all be challenging and encouraging one another.

Race day was nearing and training was all but done before an obstacle arose. Exactly one week before the race I managed to break my left hand falling over. My arm was in a full plaster cast for the next two days and my chances of running had slimmed. I was truly gutted because I had come such a long way and the idea of watching from the side-lines after all the training was extremely unappealing. Thankfully, after two days the plaster was replaced with a much lighter and versatile splint, and I was told by the OT that I would be able to run if I wanted, provided my hand remained secure. The pain was still an issue but to hear that running wouldn’t directly affect the longevity of the injury was great news. With the race looming I had to decide if I was running. Some of my peers suggested it would be far too uncomfortable for me to run 21km with a newly broken and they were probably right, but the journey with my mates had come too far and I wanted to finish it with them.

On race day, we met up 30 minutes before the start and anxiously awaited the challenge we had been training months for. The run was very tough. My music stopped working a mere four minutes into the race, leaving myself with my thoughts for the next two hours… how great… I also couldn’t move my left arm as any movement was painful, and quite intense throbbing kicked in during the last 10km. It was probably one of the most challenging things I have ever experienced. However, when things were getting tough I just thought of what we were running for and all the people who supported us. When I turned the last corner before the finish line I saw the boys who had already finished cheering me on and I couldn’t help but smile crossing the finish line… to be congratulated by mum who finished 20 minutes faster than me. As a group, we enthusiastically supported the last remaining boys to finish as our endorphins ran high. The feeling of accomplishment was astounding and the few months of training seemed all worth it.

In the end, we managed to raise $23,000 for Livin’ which was $2000 over our goal. The experience, not only of race day, but the entire three months with my mates is one I will never forget. The challenges that were faced only heightened the reward and satisfaction after the run, and to be able to help an organisation break the stigma of mental health at the same time was truly incredible.

For more info on Livin’ and their incredible work: https://livin.org

To view the article Livin’ did on our running group: https://livin.org/news/21-reasons-why-we-love-our-supporters/

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