500 MILES DOWN… 1,500 TO GO

A mental health awareness campaign launched by Simon Hawley of our planning team is well underway, with he and his team-mates having hit the 25 per cent milestone in their challenge.

Simon and three friends pledged to raise awareness of mental health issues and funds for charities supporting those battling them by committing to each run 500 miles over the course of a year in memory of his former University housemate Barry Davies, who took his own life in August this year.

Barry (left) with Simon Hammonds and Simon Hawley, both of whom are running to raise awareness and funds in Barry’s memory.

While Barry suffered from depression for as long as Simon knew him, neither he nor his friends saw his death coming, and are determined to help support charities who help others battling depression to try and prevent further tragic losses.

In September, the group – made up of Simon, Barry’s girlfriend Katy Back and two other University mates Graeme Davison and Simon Hammonds – agreed to take on one of Barry’s 2020 goals for themselves. Barry had committed to running 500 miles over the course of the year, but events became too much and he took his own life.

Simon said: “It was very difficult getting started, even though we’d agreed it was a tribute to Barry, it has been hard to come to terms with his death and motivate ourselves to get moving. We are now three months into the challenge, and between us we’ve run over 500 of the 2,000 combined miles we need to notch up by the end of next September.

“Circumstances have made it tough for all us, especially as it gets colder. Graeme has been a keen runner for years and is used to the colder temperatures, but the rest of us are fairweather runners and we’ve found the cold, wet and dark more of a challenge both physically and psychologically – I know that personally if I wasn’t running for Barry, I wouldn’t be running at all right now.

“The restrictions have not helped – a second national lockdown and further Tiered restrictions across the country have prevented us meeting up as we had planned to motivate and support one another.

“On the positive side we are becoming better runners; we are all getting quicker and are able to cover greater distances. We are all trying to get ahead of schedule now before the weather gets really bad over the next couple of months – and we’re realistically expecting to lose a week or two next year through injury and long-awaited holidays. We hope to be able to get together more to run as a group next year,” he added.

The group are raising money for Wolfwood, a charity operated by Barry’s sister dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating abandoned animals which was very close to his heart, and Give Us A Shout , a text messaging service providing round-the-clock support across the UK with those struggling with mental health concerns. The fundraising total presently stands at almost £1,500.

Simon added: “Mental health issues have had a lot more publicity and an increased profile in the past couple of years, but the fact that Barry did not confide in us about just how low he had become, that he felt that it was the only way out, means that to us, that it needs to be talked about so much more – and at this time of year it’s more important than ever.

“We wanted to put a reminder out to everyone to check in on their friends and family as we prepare for a Christmas that is unlike one we’ve had before. As a group, we’re facing a Christmas without a friend, and thousands of people have lost loved ones this year. Covid rules will mean that many will not have access to the support and friendship they need at a very hard time of year, and it’s more important than ever that people make time to phone and schedule video calls with those who are vulnerable and alone with their thoughts.

To support Simon and his friends in their quest, click here.