Yesterday (Tuesday 21 September 2021) saw local runners joining Henry Cock as he ran his 76th consecutive half marathon along the streets of Sedgefield. That’s 21,1km of running every day, for 76 days – making him the new Guinness World Record holder…. for men.
Interestingly, the record for women is more (102 consecutive ½ Marathons), but if Henry has his way, he will be breaking that record too in 36 days. Indeed he will run right past it en route to his is final goal – 133 half marathons on the trot!
Henry began his amazing journey on the 8th of July 2021 at Kosi Bay in KwaZulu-Natal and, all going well, will run his last half marathon somewhere around Vioolsdrift in the Northern Cape. He will then have achieved a total of 2 800 km.
Surprisingly, running isn’t Henry’s biggest ‘thing’ – his most important mission on this more-than-impressive running tour is to raise awareness about Mental Health and raise funds for the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG).
Henry hopes to raise R4 million for SADAG through his ‘Mentally Aweh Initiative’.
“If I can raise 10c from 8000 people for every kilometre I run in 2021, that’s one coffee per month, per person, I can reach my target and help people get the help and support they need for mental illness,” he says.
In South Africa, one in five people suffers from a mental health disorder.
“Yet, 75% of these people don’t receive any mental health care or support,” says SADAG’s Founder Zane Wilson. Shockingly, the percentage of South Africa’s uninsured population that has access to some form of mental healthcare is under 1%.
In 2019, Henry started seeing a therapist.
“After months of therapy,” he said “I got the courage to take medication and admit to the people I cared about the most that I suffered from anxiety.”
Unfortunately, mental illness is still very stigmatised, and many people are ashamed to admit or seek help for their mental health issues. They believe that they are weak or that there is no treatment or hope for mental illness.
“It takes great courage to speak out and recognise that you suffer from a mental disorder. The more we can open the conversation surrounding mental health, the greater the understanding and empathy will be for those that suffer,” Henry suggests, “In many ways, it’s easier for me to do a 21,1km run every day for 133 days than it is for some people to get out of bed to face another day. I’d like to inspire as many people as possible to become a beacon of hope for those who suffer in silence.”
SADAG, the country’s foremost mental health counselling and support NGO, operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is manned by over 200 volunteers. The pandemic has put a huge strain on an already failing mental health care system, and now, with thousands of people feeling vulnerable, anxious and lonely, SADAG is busier than ever. From January to September 2020, SADAG received 315 666 calls – that’s enough people to fill the FNB stadium more than three times. From 2019 to 2021, the calls have increased from 600 to 2,200 daily. SADAG also runs the only suicide prevention helpline in South Africa, which costs over R120 000 a month to operate.
A stipulation from the Guinness World Records is that for every run, Henry must have at least one other person running alongside him as a “witness”. There has been no shortage of volunteers to fulfil this role. “Lookout for Henry passing through your city, join him, cheer him on or have a chat”, Zane Wilson encourages.
Support Henry Cock on the road with his Mentally Aweh Initiative.
Follow him on Facebook: henry.cock or on his website www.runhenryrun.co.za