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Mental Health Awareness Week takes place in the UK from Monday 14th May until Sunday 20th May 2018.
For these seven days, I will attempt to complete 7 Ironman distance triathlons in 7 consecutive days in Crowborough, East Sussex. To provide context; an Ironman triathlon consists of a 2.4 mile (3.8km) swim, followed by a 112 mile (180km) bike ride, and finished with a 26.2 mile (42.2km) marathon run.
If I manage to complete this rather epic feat, by the weeks end I'll have covered a total of 16.8 miles (26.6km) swimming, 784 miles (1,260km) of cycling and 183.4 miles (295.4km) of running, and let's be fair... most likely some walking too!
So you might be asking WHY? Why on earth would anyone do such a thing?
To share all of my why's would take up too much of your time, so here's my shortened version.
In 2014 and 2015 I experienced a depressive period within my life that rocked me to my core. An emptiness that is difficult to convey with words. I can't recall exactly when, but I remember reading a book called Mindset by a lady Carol S. Dweck. I didn't quite realise at the time, but it planted a seed and ignited the faintest spark in my mind. The power to believe we can improve. That who we are in this very moment isn't who we always have to be. It opened my awareness on an intellectual level that we can grow and things can and will improve through purposeful effort.
Over the course of many months, with small but purposeful effort, my situation did slowly but surely improve, and what came from the darkness was Smilinggg. The Smilinggg Mile proved fundamental in helping me improve my mental health and wellbeing. It has since provided me with a framework to live my life by. Not bad considering it all started by Googling 'How to be happy.'
It was feeling a sense of hope that allowed me to take that first step, and as Lao Tzu so elegantly wrote "The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step."
This was 3 years ago. Since then I've understood Carol S Dweck's teachings on an experiential level and ultimately it's been through endurance pursuits that I've obtained this wisdom. Since 2015, I've completed a handful of marathons, 2 IronMan 70.3's, a 12 and a 16 hour ultra-marathon. I don't share this as an attempt to impress; but rather to express that things can and will improve with each small step. That first step I hope will be with The Smilinggg Mile.
It would be naive of me to say I am glad I experienced depression. However, I am grateful for the lessons I have learned and the direction my life has taken since.
As the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said "That which does not kill us, makes us stronger." Unfortunately mental illness is still claiming lives.
In 2016 there were 5,965 suicides in the UK. I hope The Smileathlon 2018 will help raise £5,965 for two mental health charities, Mind and Samaritans, both doing incredible work to ensure this statistic continues to decrease. The sum is my way of honouring the memory of each of those 5,965 lives that were cut short and their families.
I have a tendency to waffle on. This story is no different. But I'll leave it with this.
If The Smilinggg Smileathlon 2018:
- Raises money for Mind and Samaritans to enable them to carry out their visions and missions.
- Raises awareness of Smilinggg and encourages participation in The Smilinggg Mile.
- Encourages people to talk and listen openly and compassionately about their own and others mental health.
- Provides hope and inspiration to take the 'first step'.
- To redefine what is possible in each and every one of us.
- Reminds people mental health awareness is every day and we experience mental health on a sliding scale in the very same way as physical health.
- The power to believe both we and situations can improve.
Then it will have been worth every one of my steps and smiles on this Smileathlon journey.
Thank you for reading.