GETTING up off the couch was a big deal for Alan Thorpe. About nine weeks ago he felt he was staring at a possible death sentence, his weight ballooning and his mental health in a dark spot.
Alan was conscious there had been six lives lost to suicide in his family, he too struggled with mental health, and he wanted to break the cycle.
So he took his first step, well, 1.8 kilometres of steps.
Alan is preparing to build up strength to walk from Ballarat to Adelaide in March, clocking more than 600km within a fortnight, raising money for Beyond Blue and awareness for men's mental health.
It has been a particularly bad year for the 38-year-old.
Alan tore his larynx while screaming when his house exploded with fire in Shepparton after Christmas, days before his family was to move to Ballarat.
Out at the time, Alan returned home fearing the worst for his family, only to learn his 11-year-old daughter Ruby had played a heroic role in ensuring everyone made it out safely.
Injury and a subsequent throat infection has made breathing hard for Alan, who has required speech therapy.
His seizures were playing up. And his brother was diagnosed with cancer.
Alan admits there have been periods in the past year when he was on suicide watch.
Amid the pandemic, Alan found himself on the couch weighing in at 146 kilos. His anxiety, depression and bi-polar disorder was weighing him down mentally.
I'm thinking clearer and I want to get out of bed in the morning. Every 'k' I walk I feel like I'm fighting a demon off my shoulders.Alan Thorpe
"My mental health since I started walking has improved. I'm thinking clearer and I want to get out of bed in the morning," Alan said.
"Every 'k' I walk I feel like I'm fighting a demon off my shoulders."
Alan said many people thought his walking would drop off after a couple of days. About two weeks in he had built up to 10km sessions.
About four weeks in, and while out walking, Alan decided to set his Ballarat to Adelaide mission.
While out walking late last week, now clocking about 30km a day, Alan started to think about where to step after the walk.
He has been thinking about how he could work in mental health and help people find their way forward. He wants to be an example and champion for hope.
"It's hard making that first step but I'm doing it," Alan said. "...I've made so many connections out there doing it."
Controversial rapper TKO, or Tommy Owens, has promised to meet Alan at the finish line in Adelaide. It is TKO's music Alan pumps while out walking.
Ballarat gym D2E jumped on board to offer Alan a free six-month membership to help build up his leg muscles for the journey.
IN OTHER NEWS
Just starting in the gym this week, Alan has realised how important leg work will be as he steps up his kilometres.
Alan also said gym sessions should help keep his training on track, in air conditioning, on sweltering Ballarat summer days.
The Athlete's Foot Ballarat and three other shoe businesses via social media are helping look after Alan's feet. The blisters he has raised bother him far less than the lingering corns he has from poorly fitting shoes early.
Gradually people are getting to know Alan in his big Essendon Bombers jacket setting out in Ballarat most mornings. The jacket alone has put Alan into a sweat helping him to already drop 20 kilos in his weight.
Warming weather and more sunshine has also made training easier for Alan in the mornings.
I was walking past farms and you could smell the animals and the paddocks looked so pretty. It was just beautiful.Alan Thorpe
"I took a walk out to Burrumbeet [on Tuesday morning], I was walking past farms and you could smell the animals and the paddocks looked so pretty," Alan said. "It was just beautiful."
Alan and his partner Rhiana are busy seeking donations and basic supplies to keep him moving as he documents his journey in preparations and when finally hitting the road on March 23, 2022.
Items Alan needs help to source include: sweat bands, exercise gear, signs, bottled water, technical devices such as power packs, strapping tape and pain relief creams and support vehicle equipment.
Alan's plan is to set out to Burrumbeet, then jump on to the highway all the way into Adelaide.
If you or somebody you know is in need of crisis support, help is available, but not limited to the following:
- Lifeline 13 11 14
- Beyond Blue 1300 224 636 or beyondblue.org.au
- Mensline: 1300 789 978
- Ballarat Mental Health Services: 5320 4100; after hours 1300 247 647
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