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I heard about the 20-4-21 challenge through my uncle, Eamonn, who took part in it last year. At first I was a bit intimidated by the huge amount of kilometres we had to cover in what seemed to be such a short time. However, I was excited to push myself and so I agreed to take part this year. It has been tough at times with college stresses and bad weather making you want to just stay at home in bed but the rest of the team have been so encouraging and seeing them smashing their goals throughout the challenge has pushed me to keep powering through.

I joined the 20-4-21 team for a number of reasons.
The main reason is that when I was in secondary school, suffering from depression and anxiety I had never heard of any organisation such as SOS. I felt so alone and had no clue where to turn for help. At that time I truly believed that the only person who could help me was myself. Having since learned about SOS and the work they do, not only for individuals who are suffering from mental illness but also those close to them, I really wanted to raise awareness of this. I would never want anyone to suffer alone like I felt I was and I hope that my participation in 20-4-21 can raise awareness of the work that SOS do so that if anyone I know is struggling, they know that there is someone out there who can help them.

Another reason why I joined the team and why I wanted to fundraise for SOS was as a thank you to them. I know that they have helped people close to me through their tough times and I am so grateful as I don’t know what I would do without those people in my life. The money that we raise this year will enable them to expand their reach, improve their services and hopefully help more and more people who don’t even realise how important they are to others.

The 1’000km challenge itself has hugely benefitted me in my personal life so far. It has given me a goal and a reason to get up and train every day. It is well known that exercise improves your mental health but it can be difficult to understand the real impact it has until you are feeling down and you go for a run, a swim or even just a walk and you feel your mood instantly improve afterwards. I just finished my final year of university in the middle of a global pandemic. Going through such an important academic year in lockdown was very isolating at times and the stress built up much more than if I had been able to relieve it by spending time with friends and getting out of the house. The 20-4-21 challenge gave me a focus and a goal, it pushed me to get away from the work every single day even if that was only for a short walk. As well as this it has opened me up to new experiences such as hiking. I was lucky enough to join some of the team on a hike in Wicklow a few months ago. Not only has this new hobby gotten me out in nature, away from the stresses of working and studying but it also allowed me to clock up kilometres while doing something I enjoy so much!

Although I still struggle with my mental health sometimes, I now feel better equipped to deal with it. I feel much less alone knowing that there is a team of 30 people who have had very similar experiences to mine and who know how to pull me up if I need it. I have also learned the power a bit of movement has to lift your spirits and the 20-4-21 challenge has given me the push that I need to keep running, walking, cycling, swimming, etc when I don’t always feel up to it.

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