THIS world record attempt was all about taking Mick Marshall to uncomfortable places mentally and physically – eight desert ultra-marathons in one year.
After three races, this superhero effort took an unexpected turn and Mick found himself staring at the receiving end of all he had been trying to promote in mental health and trauma awareness.
Mick knows he is not okay. But even supermen need to be able to accept mental help.
Mick had conquered three desert ultras within six weeks, including one in Peru running up “sand dunes as big as Mount Buninyong”. He continued a full work schedule between races as a therapeutic carer for disengaged youth with Berry Street. He was giving community talks about Berry Street’s work and RU OK Day, for which he is an ambassador. He was training, making sure to find quality family time and keeping on top of jobs about his house.
And Mick did not realise he was mentally exhausted.
Not long after race three, near the Simpson Desert, Mick was in a major car crash in Eureka Street.
Mick was unsure exactly what happened but, regardless, is certain his full concentration was not there.
Physically, Mick’s body is repairing but healing his mind will take a longer. The crash has re-opened forgotten wounds from a serious car accident Mick had as 19-year-old. Now almost 50, Mick realises he is better opening up to help, talk and care from loved ones than merely running into crazy, fun adventures.
The crash, he said, was one big wake-up call.
“Three months ago, everything was all right and I was shooting for the stars – I had this great goal, I was fit and healthy, family was great, work was great, I was in a great space. Just shows how quickly everything can change,” Mick said.
“I have been diagnosed with trauma and I know it’s right because I deal with trauma in my work. It makes it a bit easier having the tools to deal with it but I still have trouble accepting help.
When people ask me if I’m ok, it’s difficult not to soldier on and just get on with it...I know I need to focus on getting myself better.
A big part of this is real understanding in knowing when things do not work out, or you fall short of your goal, it is okay. Mick said knowing this did not make him “better” – there were tough days ahead, like September 29 when he would have been running 100 kilometres through the Sahara Desert in Tunisia.
But it helped in working through this tough time.
“I’m lucky, I have a lot of people who love me, a lot of people who support me and work has been really understanding. I feel lucky I see this,” Mick said.
“Now I’m on this side of mental health awareness, I’m learning a lot from it. I actually accept what (loved ones) are saying to me and I’m taking some time to take stock.”
Mick said rather than looking at what has been lost, like a world record, he was so proud to look behind at what he had achieved.
Ultra-marathons tend to be what a runner might aim to achieve in a lifetime. Most distance runners only tend to complete one marathon each year.
Mick grit out three gruelling ultras in extreme conditions in his Running 4 Change mission, achieving support for Berry Street, RU OK?, River’s Gift SIDS research and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Now Mick needs to get “back to balance”. He needs to start running for his own happiness again.
- Mick Marshall’s got one desert down, seven sandy runs to go
- Mick Marshall tackles “sand dunes as big as Mount Buninyong”.
Creating conversation to change a life
BRIGHT FIKA baristas want to get people talking and have been tapping into their strength – coffee – to promote a mentally healthier Ballarat.
FIKA, teaming up with headspace Ballarat, went yellow and black for RU OK? Day on Thursday.
Baristas say reaction from customers was really positive and they hope the bright welcome will create ongoing conversation and thought.
“It’s good to spread awareness, especially in a small town like Ballarat where so many people are experiencing a mental illness or who are struggling with difficulties,” FIKA’S Josh Wood said.
“A lot of people might be too proud to say they are not okay, but it’s nice to know someone cares to ask…
And you can always talk about anything over a coffee.
If you have a niggling feeling a person is not behaving as they normally would, or seem out of sorts, RU OK? is encouraging people to ask the question and follow four steps.
1. ASK IF OK: be relaxed, friendly and concerned in your approach. Try to help them open up by asking “how are you going?” or mention what you might be concerned about, like “you seem less chatty than usual”. If there is push-back, maybe say “call me if you ever want to chat”.
2. LISTEN WITHOUT JUDGEMENT: have patience, encourage them to explain, show you have listened by repeating back what you have heard from them.
3. ENCOURAGE ACTION: ask how you could help and be positive about the role a professional can have in tough time. If someone has been down for two weeks, or is at risk, seek professional help, like Lifeline or a general practitioner.
4. CHECK-IN: make a note to stay in touch and see if they have found ways to manage the situation. If need, take time to listen.
If you or someone you know needs crisis support, call Lifeline 13 11 14.
It is never too late to seek support. Lifeline can also give advice for how to open a conversation.
headspace Ballarat for youth is 5304 4777 or eheadspace.org.au.