Marathon for Mental Health
3rd July 2021
The motivation behind the marathon
2021 marks my 31st year as a primary school teacher. I only came down south to complete my teacher training in 1989 and I'm still here after all those years. 24 years of my career have been spent as a senior leader working directly with the most vulnerable children in our schools. Many things have changed for the better in education during my career but the rapid, exponential rise in children suffering from mental health conditions is the most alarming and worrying development over the last 10 years.
Last year I decided to mark the 30 year anniversary by taking some proactive, positive action to raise awareness and much needed funding to support young people in their fight against mental health issues. As we stumble our way through the current global pandemic, the need is even greater this year. It is now estimated that 1 in 6 young people under the age of 18 are suffering from a diagnosable mental health condition. Just think about that ... it’s around 70 children in a 2-form entry primary school and up to 400 in a large secondary school. That's far too many families facing problems so it's time to change things.
Walking a marathon seemed like the ideal way to raise awareness. Walking is fully inclusive, it allows time for communication thus enhancing social connection. It also allows time to take in the beauty of the world around us ... to feel the fresh air, to listen to the birds, to enjoy the sight of trees, flowers and water. It allows time to think, to reflect and re-charge the batteries.
Bee-lieve Foundation aims to help everyone so an activity to involve everyone, whatever their age or fitness level was essential.
The 26 mile marathon this year will take place on Saturday 3rd July. We have called the route this year ‘The 6 Bridges Walk’ to raise awareness of the 1 in 6 young people suffering with a mental health condition and also to tie in with Bee-lieve Foundation’s ‘6 Ways to Wellbeing’ which are:
Care for the planet
The route will start at Westminster Cathedral, London and will end at Holy Family Catholic Primary School in Addlestone, Surrey. The route will go via 6 bridges on the River Thames
Stage 1: Westminster Cathedral to Westminster Bridge. (1.0 miles)
Stage 2: Westminster Bridge to Albert Bridge to Putney Bridge (5.8 miles)
Stage 3: Putney Bridge to Richmond Bridge (4.7 miles)
Stage 4: Richmond Bridge to Hampton Court Bridge (4.8 miles)
Stage 5: Hampton Court Bridge to Walton Bridge (5.1 miles)
Stage 6: Walton Bridge to Holy Family Catholic Primary School, Addlestone (4.6 miles including a final celebratory lap around the daily mile track on the school field)
The ‘Fantastic Five’ will walk the entire 26 miles route alongside me. However, we are inviting supporters to join us on any stage either for the whole stage or simply a short part of the stage ... the more people walking together ... the greater the celebration and the impact. Alternatively, we are asking all families to walk their own mini-marathon of 6 miles…1 mile for each of our six stages.
The Fantastic Five are:
- Liam Flanagan
- Paul Seuke
- Stephen Holt
- Mike Meredith
- Rob Deacock
The walk will depart Westminster Cathedral at 9.00am and we hope to arrive at Holy Family by around 6.00pm.
Founder of Bee-lieve Foundation
Meet the Fantastic Five
Mike is one of those rare breeds of human being walking humbly amongst us having won blues in hockey for both Oxford and Cambridge. Not content with winning 3 blues at Oxford, he switched allegiance to Cambridge where he went on to captain the team in two Varsity matches.
Mike is now a director of a major public services consultancy based in London where he leads on transformational change within organisations such as the NHS and central government. He is also a Foundation Governor at Holy Family, a fabulous golf partner, proud Northerner and someone I’m privileged to call a wonderful friend.
Whilst at Cambridge, Mike completed his PhD which makes him a doctor. This means his job on the marathon team is clear; although not a medical doctor, Dr Mike has worked extensively with the NHS so as ‘Medical Executive’ will be immediately called upon if I get cramp, fatigued or injured in any way. I am delighted that Mike will be alongside me throughout the marathon walk.
This young man is living proof that our NHS are indeed amazing. Born 3 months premature and weighing in at just a fraction over 2 pounds, Liam spent the first part of his life in an incubator under the constant watch of the special care team at Kettering General. Roll on 23 years and the marathon team has a 6 foot 9 giant with indefatigable lungs walking amongst us. I’m not sure what they were pumping into that incubator but it certainly worked...this boy runs on mega packs of duracells.
Liam also loves maps so his role is therefore clear – as ‘Navigational Executive’ he will be the lookout and directions man, particularly in central London as he will be able to see over all the London buses.
Liam spends a lot of his time running 5K, 10K and half-marathon races, never getting out of breath and raising hundreds of pounds for charity in the process so this will literally be a stroll in the park for him. He’s also my nephew and like me, a life-long fan of MUFC & Wigan Warriors Rugby League; I love him to bits so I’m thrilled he will be alongside me, albeit at a far greater altitude, throughout the 26 mile walk.
Mr Holt of Weybridge is a bit of an eBay & Twitter phenomenon and definitely someone you should look up if you are interested in rare football memorabilia including old photographs, newspaper reports, match tickets and other fascinating collectables. Certainly, his 5,600 followers believe so. He’s also the second member of the ‘Trinity of Giants’ in the team, Headteacher of the nearest Catholic primary to Holy Family and happens to be undoubtedly my greatest confidante and best friend in teaching. I am delighted he has volunteered to walk every step of the 26 miles with me.
Stephen walks at the speed other humans tend to run…in sprint races…so he will be operating as point man throughout the journey. We are likely to be at least a mile behind but Liam will see him from his altitude so we will have plenty of time to adjust our course when he yells.
With his undoubted technological talents, he has also earned himself the role of ‘Communications Executive’ which will involve photos, filming a blog and keeping the live walk tracker up to date.
The final member of the ‘Trinity of Giants’, Paul is another super-fit individual who won’t need to break sweat during the walk. Competing regularly in triathlon and duathlon races, Paul recently qualified in his age group to represent GB in the European Duathlon Championship in Spain. He’s also a former semi-professional goalkeeper who once played a blinder for Horsham in a FA Cup second round game live on Sky against Swansea City. Don’t bring this up in conversation though as he still has the DVD and you will then have to watch it.
Paul runs his own company, PS Sports Coaching, and they are outstandingly good. We are very fortunate to have Paul on our staff at Holy Family and I am blessed to call him one of my best friends. Paul knows a thing or two about healthy eating and fancies himself as a bit of a comedian so his role in the team will be that of ‘Nutritional Comedy Executive’. He will look after our nutritional needs, keep us hydrated and energised…and perhaps throw in a joke or two along the way if at least 4 out of the 5 of the rest of us vote for it.
To find out more information about Paul's coaching company PS Sports Coaching, please click on the following link:
Rob is yet another highly educated, top bloke who I am privileged to call a great friend. In the day job you will find Rob in amongst the shrubs, hedgerows, herbaceous borders and flower beds of St George’s College where he manages the grounds and landscaping team. Well, I think that’s what he’s doing, unless he’s part man, part bird. If you’re ever passing, you’ll recognise him…he’s the one wearing the cool shades and pointing a lot.
Rob is another with a wonderful, sharp wit and humour so I’m truly looking forward to 26 miles of laughter and smiles alongside him. He is also a keen athlete, sportsman and general keep-fit man which will be ideal to help drag me along; I’ve watched a lot of Olympic sport over the years so plan to sit in the middle of the pack and magically become aero-dynamic.
Rob holds a BA Honours from UCLAN (who work in partnership with Wigan Warriors making him by default a Warriors fan for the day) and gained a Masters in Environmental Conservation & Management at the University of London in 2018. This makes Rob’s job in the team straight forward; as ‘Conservation Executive’ his role will be to educate me about all the flora we pass on the journey whilst making sure my energy is conserved.
I am beyond thrilled that Rob jumped at the opportunity to join us and represent St George’s on our marathon team; there is literally no-one else from the College I’d rather have alongside me the whole way.