Generation Emigration

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens abroad

Running for mental health and my county in London

The Mind Yourself charity is hosting a fun run in October to raise funds, writes Amy Bracken

Maeve Higgins will be running for Co Cork.

Thu, Sep 12, 2013, 00:00

   

Amy Bracken

If you live in London and never thought your county would be All-Ireland contenders, or indeed that you could help them along the way, now’s your chance.

On October 20th, Mind Yourself, a charity that works for the mental and physical well-being of the Irish community in London, is hosting the All-Ireland Fun Run on Clapham Common, whereby everyone walks or runs for their county, and the county with the combined fastest score wins.

“If Leitrim has 20 runners but Dublin has 100 runners, for example, it could be that Leitrim would win because they have the combined fastest time,” explains Claire Barry, a Limerick native and director of Mind Yourself.

“We want to get people to have an opportunity to be fit as well as have fun together. So that was where the All-Ireland County Run theme came from, because a generic five kilometre run doesn’t have the same cache attached to it. We thought it would add a little fun and give bragging rights to counties that might never have the opportunity to go to Croke Park.”

Participants can sign up online, with the option of walking or running a 5K or 10K track. Every participant states the county they are running for, and will be given a microchip to record their time which will then be combined with the scores of other people running for that county.

“We have also put in some honorary counties,” says Claire, “for people of Irish descent who might want to run on behalf of London and other parts of the UK. And then we spread it out for people from the US or Australia or New Zealand in Team Rest of the World.”

Mind Yourself grew out of the London Irish Women’s Centre, which was established in 1983 but recently changed its focus and demographic.

“We decided to change the focus of the organisation first of all by including men for the first time in the 30 years it had been around. The one thing that wasn’t being addressed among the Irish community in London was the issue of health inequality; Irish people had a significantly poorer health outcome that than rest of the population.”

Mind Yourself also aims to eradicate some of the other problems facing Irish people in London and the rest of the UK today, as Claire explains. A recent study by the charity revealed that only 25 per cent of Irish people in their mid-20s moving to London feel fully prepared for the move.

“We are very concerned for new migrants when they come over without documentation or enough money to set themselves up; for example, they may need six weeks rent up front and a deposit and so on. So those practical things can really throw people and we’d just be concerned about that.

“We are most worried that the people who suffer isolation and loneliness are people who suffer from depression or are predisposed to mental health issues, that those would be exacerbated. And also the issue of substance abuse, be it alcohol or drugs. Again, people who are isolated or lonely might be more inclined to abuse alcohol and use drugs in a way that they mightn’t if they had a good social support network.”

Claire also explains the social scene and way people get to know each other in London can be completely different to Ireland. “We’re so used in Ireland, to cases where perhaps our mother knows someone, or a former schoolmate or something like that, that a lot of what we do in Ireland is by personal connection or by knowing someone. In London that’s not the case.”

The All-Ireland Fun Run aims to raise funds for these causes, as well as giving Irish people the opportunity to do something good for their health and get fit while having fun. It will also be an opportunity to engage with other Irish people and with the Mind Yourself charity itself. All ages and abilities are encouraged to be involved, and there will even be a 2K course for children, to encourage families to come along.

Among the 1,000 hoped-for participants, comedienne Maeve Higgins will be running, representing Cork. So far registrations by women have outnumbered men by four to one, and is mainly dominated by western counties, but there is still plenty of time to sign up and train.

I will be taking part on the day for Co Meath. Having recently joined a ladies GAA team here in London, my fitness has improved, but I’m working hard to ensure I do my bit to help the Royal County to victory! Mind Yourself is hoping to have around 1,000 participants to add to the fun atmosphere, and there’s still plenty of time to prepare.

Sign up for the All-Ireland Fun Run here.

Amy Bracken works as a television researcher in London, where she has been living for almost a year. She blogs at itsnotagradlife.wordpress.com. She wrote another article for Generation Emigration over the summer on finding accommodation in London and the costs of moving.

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