Sara, our Mind Cymru Director, blogs about taking part in this weekend's Mind Hike challenge - trekking Offa's Dyke in 24 hours in aid of Mind.
I have a BIG birthday this year - I am 50.
Perhaps it’s because I’m more tuned into it now, but suddenly all the newspapers seem to be full of people of my generation talking about the challenges of middle-life.
How to navigate the looking after of teenage children; dealing with the upheaval of relationship breakdown; contemplating career changes and choices; realising that your body, physical health and stamina are on a one-way journey.
"To mark my 50th year I’ve decided to do something a bit scary, which I trust will also be a joy."
Through it all there’s a strong theme of reviewing what you have done with your life so far, and realizing how precious and fleeting time is.
Me, I’ve decided to embrace it. I’ve had my ups and downs, and I’ve learned the keys to my own personal wellbeing - staying physically active, being outdoors in nature, doing and learning new things and spending time with, and for, other people.
Over the first days of July I’ll be taking part in the Mind Hike - a 40 mile day-and-night trek along the Offa’s Dyke path to raise money and awareness for Mind.
"As the start of our challenge draws near we are excited but nervous, furiously swapping tips on how to get ready."
I won’t be going it alone – I’ll be joining an amazing group of people who, like me have been inspired to take part by friends and family who live with mental health problems.
I also like setting myself the odd challenge, so to mark my 50th year I’ve decided to do something a bit scary, which I trust will also be a joy.
I’ve never met my fellow walkers in person, but I’ve seen their training schedules, fundraising efforts, hopes and fears unfold on Facebook over the past few months. As the start of our challenge draws near we are excited but nervous, furiously swapping tips on how to get ready.
"Seeing the messages and donations come in was really moving and it’s encouraging to see that mental health is a cause so close to people’s hearts."
We have received encouragement, support and information from the fundraising team at Mind. They were also kind enough to set up a Facebook page for our little community, and have been on hand to answer our questions and calm our anxieties.
I’m looking forward to meeting the rest of ‘Team Dragon’ who’ll be with me all the way from Dyserth in North Wales as we walk through the beautiful Vale of Clwyd along the route of the eighth century fortification to Chirck Castle, where we will meet ‘TeamDragon ’ 24 hours and 40 miles later for a party.
"I’ve had my ups and downs, and I’ve learned the keys to my own personal wellbeing."
My preparation has not been as structured or rigorous as it could have been (sorry Emily). But I have done a couple of long walks, and I am a lot fitter than a few months ago having acquired a regular gym schedule. I hope it’s enough (gulp). I’ll let you know.
I have been incredibly lucky in my fundraising efforts. I asked family and friends for sponsorship rather than presents for my birthday, and with the guide from Mind it was really easy to set up a page for donations.
Seeing the messages and donations come in was really moving, and it’s encouraging to see that mental health is a cause so close to people’s hearts. Best of all was being proudly presented with contributions from my God-daughter Izzy and my son Will, with the latter’s generous donation coming from his precious pocket money.
This trek has a special meaning for me as well. I spend a lot of my time in the Olchon Valley in Herefordshire. I enjoy looking up at the Offa's Dyke Path on the horizon where it skirts the eastern edges of the Brecon Beacons - as well as being a natural border, it’s also a heavenly bit of countryside.
As one of those pesky Welsh maurauders Offa was trying to keep at bay over a thousand years ago, it feels like a bit of a celebration to be tramping all over it.
Wish me luck!
Read about Information and support
Blogs and stories can show that people with mental health problems are cared about, understood and listened to. We can use it to challenge the status quo and change attitudes.