Local News

Marathon runner to visit Grafton during Jacaranda season

Emma Pritchard While he plans to run 20 marathons in 20 days, Mark Avery will still have time to admire the beautiful purple blossoms of the Jacaranda trees in Grafton this week. On October 26, Mr Avery began an epic 1000km journey from Tweed Heads to Sydney, covering an average of 48km per day. The sixth stage of his travels will see him arrive in the Jacaranda City on October 31. Mr Avery is aiming to raise $20,000 for Gotcha4Life, a not-for-profit organisation which focuses on mental health issues and reducing suicide across Australia. He is also running to promote mental well-being in local communities, to inspire and encourage people to speak up and take action to be mentally healthy, to create a legacy to show his young children that anything is possible and to share his personal experiences of mental anguish. He will also run in honour of his close friend Frank Smart, who tragically lost his battle with cancer in 2015. It was following the loss of his friend, who was also his work colleague and neighbour, that Mr Avery began battling his own mental health issues. “I had lost a very good friend and I was trying to be what I thought was strong, but on the inside, I was really struggling,” he recalled. “All of a sudden I went from being a happy-go-lucky person to someone who was depressed, drinking too much and suffering panic attacks. “I was anxious, I couldn’t concentrate and I couldn’t sleep either, but I kept it all to myself.” Mr Avery said it was “a number of months” before he sought help by visiting a doctor, a decision he credits as the beginning of when he started to feel better by releasing the emotional stress and tension which had built up since the passing of his friend. Determined to replace his bad habits with good habits, and with the support and encouragement of his loving family, Mr Avery decided to begin training for a marathon. “When I began training, I was unsure if I could do it, but I enjoyed running so much,” Mr Avery said, adding physical exercise was a great way to boost his mental health. After previously completing 21 half marathons in 21 days earlier this year in Sydney, Mr Avery has partnered with Gotcha4Life for his present journey. He hopes the funds raised will enable the charity to deliver workshops and programs in schools and clubs to build the mental fitness and well-being of communities throughout Australia and help those struggling with mental health issues. “I wanted to work with a charity that can help change communities and Gotcha4Life have some really good programs and their team do amazing work,” Mr Avery said. Gus Worland, chairman and founder of Gotcha4Life, described Mr Avery as an inspiration and emphasised his views on increasing the charity’s programs throughout local areas. After leaving Grafton on November 1, Mr Avery plans to arrive in Sydney on November 14. Mr Avery has also created a virtual event to allow people to sign up and run with him. Entry is $35 with all proceeds going directly to Gotcha4Life. For more information and to keep track of Mr Avery’s progress, please visit www.run4mentalfitness.com