Henry Cock is on a mission to raise awareness for mental health and he hopes to raise R4 million for the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) along the way.
The 35-year-old Johannesburg restaurant owner started the Mentally-Aweh Initiative in Kosi Bay in KwaZulu-Natal in July this year and hopes to end off his journey at Alexander Bay on the border of Namibia on Tuesday 16 November.
Cock, who has up to this point raised more than R800 000, smashed the Guinness World Record for half marathon runs by running 76 half marathons in 76 days.
This feat was accomplished in Sedgefield, in the Southern Cape, on Wednesday 22 September.
The total distance he hopes to complete is 2 800 km and it includes a combination of trail and road running through some of South Africa’s rarest landscapes.
Cock explains that he decided to take on this massive challenge after he experienced some difficult times when the country went into lockdown in March last year.
“This journey has been in the making since April last year, when the country went into lockdown I went through a rough time and I wanted to do something bigger and give back to people. I have been seeing a psychologist and started chatting to her about mental health. My experience opened my eyes to how prevalent mental health problems are, how few people understand them, and the obstacles people have to face when getting help.”
He explains that he was inspired to do something.
“There was a guy in the 1980’s who wanted to run from the East Coast of Canada to the West Coast to raise awareness for cancer. and that is what I wanted to do, something coast to coast. Like a marathon of hope for mental health.”
Capetonians currently get to support the runner as he is completing the Cape Town leg of his race in Green Point, Muizenberg and Tokai.
He explains that it took him six months to prepare.
“I quit drinking for the year. I started training. I took up boxing to get my body strong, doing four boxing sessions a week. Ten sessions a week, running boxing, cross training weightlifting.”
The runner says he has been met with many challenges on the road.
“We experienced the looting in KZN in July. We had to run through those riots, it was quite scary. Lots of people were asking us what we were doing on the road. We could not get food for a week because all the shops were empty. We got robbed in the South Coast.”
He says some days are harder to prepare for than others; with his body sometimes needing a push and other times, his mind.
He explains that the support from people has been overwhelming. “I had an incredible support system and people who have been supporting me all the way; every day you have somebody there to help us work through whatever the problem is. And I suppose that is a nice metaphor for mental health.”
Fatima Seedat, Development Manager for Sadag says they have seen a drastic increase in clients as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Prior to the pandemic we used to receive an average of 600 calls a day. We are currently receiving around 2 200, and that excludes the emails, SMSes and WhatsApp messages we received from people who are in need of help for depression, anxiety, stress, grief, trauma and other mental health issues.”
Seedat says they are grateful for Cock’s efforts to raise awareness and funds.
Cock adds that he understands that donating funds is not always possible, and so he encourages people to help raise awareness.
To follow his journey and to donate visit www.runhenryrun.co.za.