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Byron Shire
December 5, 2021

Mark running 1,000 km for mental health, via Ballina

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Vicki and Mark Avery with Percy the Prawn, Alfie and Lily Avery in Ballina. Photo David Lowe.

Ballina’s Percy the Prawn joined Mark Avery for 100 metres of his epic run down the east coast of Australia yesterday.

They were joined by Mr Avery’s wife Vicki and their two kids, who are also his support crew, as he runs twenty marathons in twenty days, all the way from Tweed Heads to their home town of Sydney, to raise funds for Gotcha4Life and generate discussions about building mental fitness.

As Mark Avery caught his breath, Echonetdaily asked him how he was feeling after his third marathon in three days.

‘I feel really good,’ he said. ‘I had some company today, and it was so much easier than yesterday, on the back roads from Pottsville to Byron. Beautiful countryside but I had to be really careful of the traffic.’

Mark Avery runs into Ballina. Photo David Lowe.

But why running? And why so far?

‘About five years ago, a good friend and neighbour of ours unfortunately passed from cancer,’ said Mr Avery.

‘I think it hit us all pretty hard.

‘He went from being healthy to three months later pretty much passing away, so I think being a typical bloke, you try and keep a stiff upper lip, I didn’t really say much and I tried to be what I thought was strong, and it sort of creeps up on you.

‘All of a sudden I went from being anxious, to becoming depressed, then I was having panic attacks at work, something I’ve never experienced before, and I found myself in a bit of a hole and didn’t know what to do,’ he remembered.

Vicki and Mark Avery with one of their souvenirs from Ballina. Photo David Lowe.

‘So I went to the doctor, had a chat, and it all came out.

‘I started to feel a little bit better, but nowhere near where I was. So I just started running in the morning, entered my first marathon, and just loved the training, swapped a load of old habits like drinking too much with good habits, like getting up early and eating well.

‘And then on one of the training runs one morning I was feeling really really bad, and just thought, I wonder if I could run from Brisbane to Sydney?

‘I didn’t tell Vicki for a year or two. But when I did she was like, midlife crisis!’

‘I didn’t believe you!’ said Vicki.

Running in the family?

Their daughter Lily says she’s proud of what her dad’s doing. Son Alfie said, ‘It’s pretty cool huh!’

Lily says she doesn’t like running as much as her dad because ‘it hurts my legs.’ Alfie said, ‘It’s very tiring.’

Percy the Prawn presented the Avery family with some special gifts in honour of their visit. Photo David Lowe.

Echonetdaily asked Ballina’s ambassador Percy the Prawn if he’d had to run anywhere before. ‘Only from the prawn trawlers!’ he said.

Mark Avery was planning to run from Brisbane earlier this year, but was delayed by COVID.

He’s never attempted to run 1,000 km before, but has completed 21 half marathons in 21 days early this year. His current ultra-marathon is twice that distance.

He says his main goal is to ‘encourage people to speak up and take action, to be mentally healthy.’ As part of this process, he also wants to help get people moving.

#keeptheconversationrunning

With one in eight Australians experiencing anxiety, one in five experiencing depression, and the leading cause of death for people aged 15-44 now suicide, Gotcha4Life is going to use funds raised to facilitate to workshops to teach mental health survival skills. Learn more here.

High fives as Mark Avery runs into Ballina. Photo David Lowe.

Vicki Avery said, ‘Anyone can join in the challenge and try to do as many kilometres a day as Mark’s doing, or they could just make a donation, which would be amazing.’

The Run4MentalFitness has already raised almost $13,000, with 242 participants and rising.

People can find out more about the challenge and get involved at https://www.run4mentalfitness.com/.

Help is at hand

If this story has raised issues for you, or if you or someone you care about needs urgent support, please contact:

  • Lifeline 13 11 44
  • Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
  • MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78
  • Beyond Blue 1300 22 46 36

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