So one of our rather inspirational friends, Stacey Smithson-Grey, likes walking and paddling. If you don’t know Stacey, you’re missing out. One of the nicest, most giving and caring people you’re likely to meet. So when we heard she was setting herself up for a pretty gruelling challenge in 2020, to raise money for Mind, we wanted to find out more, and see what we could do to help Stacey share her message.
Q. So Stacey – what’s the driver for the challenge?
The reasons were both personal and professional.
On a personal level, I signed up to the events as Sean (husband) was in the final year of his 22 year services with the British Army and as a military wife, I understand the struggles that servicing and ex-service personnel can have with their mental health. Most notably individuals suffering from PTSD, anxiety and depression. It’s a growing issue and something I really want to help raise awareness of. And it’s quite close to home too. I know two individuals who took their own lives in 2019 and I have a close friend who has severe PTSD.
I’d like to do what I can to support others and the best way I know how is by taking on a personal challenge that will push me physically and mentally to help raise funds for Mind – the mental health charity.
Q. You mentioned professional reasons as well?
Yes – in my day job I deal with potential suicides all too often. I work in the control room for Highways England, and managed a number of suicide incidents and attempts of suicide in the 3 years I have been with them. I’m really concerned that the number of vulnerable people on bridges and on the motorway are rising, especially in the current climate. I’m aware of people having their counselling put on hold or delayed and number of sessions lowered because of Coronavirus, and I’m worried that the short term actions we’re taking now are creating long term problems for the future. I believe not one single person can honestly put their hand up and say they have not suffered from any sort of mental health issue in the past.
Q. Is this why you chose MIND?
I know that all charities are really struggling at the moment with many of their revenue sources closed down. Many fundraising activities have had to be cancelled, but the problems that charities deal with aren’t going away. In fact, my other fundraising activity intention for this year was to take part in 9 x 100km Ultra challenge hikes all round the UK. Obviously, Coronavirus got in the way, postponing six of the events until next year, and only time will tell whether the remaining three happen this year or not. And not only are the problems the charities are dealing with not going away, in many cases they are getting worse. MIND is such a great charity and does a lot of prevention work, and I strongly believe that we need to do more upfront prevention work.
Q. So why did you choose walking?
I chose hiking for my challenges as it’s a great platform for people to #walkandtalk, I love that walking is a free exercise. There’s so much research about how getting outdoors and simply walking is great for both your physical and mental health, so I want to lead by example and encourage people to get outdoors for a walk even if it’s just a short one. Also – walking is free, so anyone can do it. There’s so much research about how getting outdoors and simply walking is great for both your physical and mental health.
It also helps that I was able to link my two favourite exercises together as part of my training before this whole Coronavirus thing got in the way. Paddling is my other passion (read more here), and I was organising regular Paddle and Plods before lockdown. Which is just what it sounds like. A paddle in one direction and then a walk back. Sometimes involving a local landmark (like a pub) at the halfway point.
Q. So how has the training been going?
The training was going fine before lockdown. I was doing regular long distance hikes, and with the paddle and plods, I was getting lots of miles in my legs. Obviously, I can’t go quite as far from home now, but I’m lucky to live in the beautiful Wye Valley, so have stunning walks right on my doorstep, that are just perfect for social-distancing!
Q. So tell us a bit more about the challenge then
The original intention was to complete the Ultra Challenge Series 9 x 100km (Isle of Wight, Jurassic Coast, London to Brighton, Lake District, Cotswold Way, Peak District, South West Coast to Coast South Coast and Thames Path) all between May – September . For obvious reasons they’re now all cancelled. I will complete them in 2021, but I needed to do something right here, right now. I’ve already been raising money – and thanks to the generosity of lots of companies my Charity Auction earlier in the year raised £1,651. But seeing how many people are having mental health issues during the lockdown, and seeing how charities are affected made me realise I just couldn’t wait. And so #lockdown100 was born.
A very different 100km walk to any of the ones I was planning.
On May 6th I will be walking 100km under our current lockdown conditions, aiming to complete the challenge in under 24hrs. I’ll start off with a 10km local walk, then complete 80km (1600 laps) around my garden, and then finish it off with another 10km walk around my neighbourhood. I intend to complete the challenge in 24 continuous hours, across two days (6th and 7th May)
I may be very dizzy by the end!
Q. Do you think you can complete the 100km in 24 hours?
Well, it’s what I’m training for, and based on my training I should be able to manage. But anything can happen on the day!
Q. And then you can put your feet up?
Well, for a few days maybe. But I need to keep training up for the 2021 Ultra challenge series. So I’ll keep walking around my neighbourhood until we’ve got this virus under control. And Paddle and plods will be back on the calendar as soon as we can head back out.
Q. So how can people support you?
They can follow my progress and support me on Instagram with inspirational and motivational messages. If anyone is so kind, then they can support me by donating through my JustGiving page. JustGiving are currently not charging any platform fees, so 100% of everything donated will go directly to Mind! I’m currently 66% towards achieving my target of £5k, which is beyond amazing with two weeks to go.
Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving – they’ll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to the charity. So it’s the most efficient way to donate – saving time and cutting costs for the charity. Click the button below to go straight to Stacey’s page.
Please follow Stacey on Instagram to keep in touch and support her. Click the button below to find out more.