Karen blogs about the 29 runs she's spent the last year completing in memory of her brother who she lost at the age of 29, raising money for Mind in the process.
On Wednesday 27 September 2017 I was out running one of the final training runs ahead of the Great Scottish Run, a half marathon being held in Glasgow a few days later.
"It was time to do something positive in his memory and to help others who may need support with their mental health."
There was nothing out of the ordinary happening that day except for a thought about my brother that kept running through my head – it was time to do something positive in his memory and to help others who may need support with their mental health.
My brother passed away when he was 29. It was a shock – sudden, tragic and incredibly sad. There was no reason and no answers. Some people felt angry. I never did. I only felt love, love for the brother I had and for the brother I had lost. I also felt incredibly protective of him. I knew that I didn’t want that to be how it ended.
I knew I wanted to create something positive in his memory, something that would help others to think about themselves and something that would help others to seek help if they needed it. I decided to promote good mental health via physical activity, encouraging people to look after themselves and each other and recognising that our mental health is important because we are all important.
I had thought up the idea for The 29 Challenge earlier that year but hadn’t acted on it. It was going to be a big commitment and the timing just didn’t seem right so I put it out of my mind.
But this time it felt very different. I was already signed up for Glasgow and the Manchester Half Marathon two weeks later. Whilst I am not a particularly fast runner, I enjoy it. And I wondered ‘what if?’
My idea was to participate in 29 runs over the course of a year to raise £29,000 for Mind. Each run would have to be chip-timed and provide a medal at the end to provide a record of what I was doing; and it would have to include a range of distances.
I came back from that training run and checked with my family that they were okay with my plan, which they were. My Mum gave me her blessing. Then I contacted Mind.
And so, The 29 Challenge began. I had to find races to run and time to train. I had to fundraise. I had to find a way to make it work in and around everything else. But I knew I could and would find a way through.
"As with life, some runs have been far from easy but every single step has been worth it."
Every mile run is worthwhile. Each running challenge that is completed respectfully marks one year of my brother’s life. Some runs have been much more challenging than others but with belief and determination, I have completed each one. As with life, some runs have been far from easy but every single step has been worth it. Every challenge is worth it and every life is worth living, if you can keep going.
"Asking for help when it is needed can make a huge difference to how we live and experience our lives."
My view has always been that I want to encourage the conversation. Together we can make a difference. There will always be good times and not-so-good times but taking a holistic view of our physical and mental health, and asking for help when it is needed, can make a huge difference to how we live and experience our lives.
Now, with almost a year of running and 28 challenges completed, I am getting ready for Challenge 29 of The 29 Challenge. It has been a journey into the unknown but the love and support at every stage has been incredible. I feel grateful that I have been able to complete each of the challenges and grateful for the support that I have received.
We are all connected and together we can make a difference. This is just the beginning…
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