Marathon man visits Grafton on 1000km mental health journey
FOR most, running a marathon is a massive challenge, but running one each day for 20 days straight is another thing entirely.
That's the goal runner Mark Avery has set himself this month as he looks to clock up more than 1000km all in the name of raising awareness and money for mental health in Australia.
Mr Avery ran his sixth straight marathon on Saturday when he covered 42km from Tullymorgan to Grafton, following the Clarence River through Lawrence and Greater Marlow.
"It's been a very surreal but amazing experience. So far it's been amazing and I feel very lucky that I can do such a challenge for an amazing group like Gotcha4Life," he said.
"My wife (Vicki) has to remind me what day it is and what day I'm up to, but I've got her and my kids Lily and Alfie with me at the start and end of each day.
"They've been at the finish line at every single event for the past four years since I started this crazy journey and there's something special about knowing they'll be there at the end of the day."
Mr Avery said the body was holding up well to the strain of the consecutive marathons, even if Saturday's run was particularly challenging.
"Running into Grafton there weren't a lot of trees, it was beautiful along the river road following the Clarence but it was so hot," he said.
"I've changed route a couple of times to either take a more scenic way or to stay off the main roads."
Despite some changes to the itinerary, Mr Avery said he was on track to reach the Sydney Opera House by November 14.
Mr Avery was driven to the long journey after the death of a close friend in 2015 led him to mental health issues, and a battle with drinking.
"I had lost a friend but I was trying to be strong. What I thought was strong anyway," Mr Avery said.
"I was having panic attacks at work - something that I'd never experienced before. I had to keep pretending I had a phone call to excuse myself from meetings to go outside to be able to breathe. And I was drinking … I was drinking a lot to try to cope and numb the pain. Which of course, made it all worse."
Mr Avery eventually turned to a doctor for help, a move he said gave him a release of the tension that had been building up.
As a result after years of planning to enter a marathon, he decided start training and do it.
After encouragement from his daughter, he entered, trained and completed his first marathon that same year.
This year, Mr Avery is extending himself to the full marathon for 20 days, clocking in at almost 1000km, and he said it is about leaving a legacy he and his children could be proud of, but also helping those struggling with mental health issues without a voice to share.
"I'm doing this in partnership with Gotcha4Life to raise awareness around mental health, and to encourage others to speak up and to take action to be mentally healthy," he said.
"You don't really know what people are thinking and going through behind the mask they wear out in public or what they put on social media. It's okay to take that mask off and talk."
To help support the cause, Mr Avery has organised a virtual event, where individuals or teams of people can sign up and attempt to run as a team the same distance as Mr Avery.
Entry is $35 which gets donated directly to the cause, which is aiming for $20,000 to help Gotcha4Life provide workshops in schools and clubs to build the mental fitness of communities in Australia.
For more information, visit www.run4mentalfitness.com.