World Champion Sailor Goes Running for Mental Health Awareness
Photo Credit: Graeme Murray
Alex Maloney knows pressure, she knows what it is to pull on the silver fern and represent her country, surrounded by expectations and hyped on the promise of sporting success.
And while that pressure is very real, Maloney knows that she is the lucky one, she can contain her pressure to sport, and she is able to draw on the help of experts and colleagues to get through the challenging times.
So it is with others in mind, the many thousands of New Zealanders who suffer in silence or don’t have the tools or people on hand to help them navigate rough waters that Maloney will put herself outside her comfort zone and race in the Barfoot & Thompson Half at the ASB Auckland Marathon on October 20, with the aim of raising awareness and money for The Mental Health Foundation, an official ASB Charity Hero Partner to the event.
The 2013 49er World Champion and 2016 Rio Olympic Games silver medalist (with sailing partner Molly Meech), Maloney is keen to help anyway she can.
“Like anything, I think mental health is a bit of a journey and presents very differently for different people. Sometimes there’s going to be amazing highs and also some tough times. I think giving people tools to get through the range of experiences life will hand us could be helpful.
“While the key to enjoying a running race such as the Barfoot & Thompson half marathon is being physically well prepared - doing the mahi before race day, the mental health side of things should not be overlooked. Before you start that physical journey, it might be that some self-care is the necessary first step.
“Learning about how our own brains and emotions work will help in taking on any physical goal but is also important in the wider context of life. I do realise this is a very simplistic approach, and it is often more complex but research, support, awareness and education around mental health is important.
“In my view, it’s sad to think this is an under resourced area in our country. This area of health is important for New Zealanders, so hopefully every little bit we can raise counts.”
Maloney has no doubt that through her own experience her mental health is tied directly to her physical wellbeing and preparation ahead of demanding and energy sapping events such as the Olympic Games and is quick to point out that a running race may not be the right choice for everyone.
“I firmly believe my happiness and feeling mentally strong is absolutely related to the key foundations to my sporting success and can be summarized under nutrition, exercise and support.
“Nutrition is a big one, our bodies and minds are one big system and fuel is everything.
“Exercise of some sort is crucial, and it doesn’t matter what that is. It might be swimming, yoga, or gentle walking, whatever floats your boat. For me feeling strong and moving my body is important, hence the half marathon.
“And last but not least is support. We all need a foundation, a community of support from family and friends and sometimes we need to make that extra effort to be with them and return that support in the other direction.”
The Mental Health Foundation is a partner to the ASB Charity Hero Programme with the ASB Auckland Marathon, with runners invited to support and fundraise for any one of the 13 charities listed, with the previous two years seeing close to two million dollars raised for the partner charities.
Maloney knows she can’t change the world on her own but is putting her hand up and utilizing her profile to help where she can.
“In an ideal world, it would be great to lower all the horrible statistics on mental health in New Zealand, and give more people access to support. I think it would be really cool, if New Zealand can turn the statistics around, help people not only survive and get by, but thrive.
“I think it’s obviously a big task with root causes being so individualistic, but it’s one New Zealand must take on, if we can raise a few thousand for Mental Health in New Zealand on the back of me running a half marathon, that will be fantastic!
“Exercise can be such a great tool; it certainly won’t do your headspace any harm if managed appropriately. So, raising money through the run challenge is also great! I am really looking forward to running with a community of people all pushing themselves. I'm not a natural runner, and I am enjoying the challenge (for the most part!).”
Maloney will take part in the Barfoot & Thompson half marathon at the ASB Auckland Marathon, with athletes starting their journey from Devonport, making their way up to Albany Stadium before turning towards the harbor Bridge, making their way up and over the Waitemata before heading to the finish line party at Victoria Park.
Support Alex Maloney’s quest to raise money for The Mental Health Foundation HERE