Category Archives: BLOGS & TRAVEL

THE LIGHT RUNNER: A STORY OF MENTAL HEALTH

Running Through Europe To Deeply Reflect On Mental Health

In 2015, Andrew Richards flew to Europe to begin his three-month journey towards World Mental Health day. He called himself the ‘Light Runner’. 

His major purpose of this big challenge was to improve mental health throughout the world. He decided to do that with just one backpack, by running through Europe and capturing his adventures. 

The concept of the Light Runner may not make sense to some of you straightaway. Well, it didn’t make much sense to me at first. Why run, to spread awareness of mental health? Why photography? The more I looked into the Light Runner challenge, the more I got curious about the story behind it. 

Here is the story of Andy, the person who became the Light Runner. 

Choosing To Be The Light Runner

—How did you come up with the idea of the Light Runner? 

Back then I was doing a lot of running. It was great for my mental health. Whenever I was stressed, I would go for a run. I ran further and got more adventurous. Somewhere along the time, I came up with the idea of running and exploring the world with just my running backpack. So I made a goal that if I completed a 100-kilometre ultra-marathon, I would make the idea into reality. 

I wanted to be doing all sorts of different challenges, which is where photography came into the idea. Photography, especially night photography with light painting, was my interest and skill that I had. So I figured it was a good way to capture the moment of my adventure and share the message with people. 

Since the idea was the combination of running ‘light’ with just one backpack and doing night photography using ‘lights’, I named this challenge the Light Runner.  

—Why were you so passionate about improving the situation around mental health?

Mental health is something that affects everyone, and yet, there is a real stigma against it. We all struggle with various kinds of mental health issues from time to time through life challenges. 

I believe the two concepts of mental health and physical health are linked to one’s health. For example, running can improve your mental health as well as physical health. That is why I think mental health should be seen the same way physical health is seen. Just like physical health, mental health or mental illness should not be a label that someone gets put on. 

I also wanted to share that one’s health is a continuum so that you can always improve your health even when you are not unhealthy both mentally and physically. 

The Biggest Struggle

Despite the original goal he had in mind, the Light Runner challenge began with struggles of his own mental health. His first challenge in Europe was to overcome those struggles and to actually become the Light Runner. 

—What was the biggest struggle you had during the Light Runner challenge?

The biggest mental struggle I had was right at the very start. All I had planned was to fly to Europe but I had really high expectations of myself with this challenge. When I arrived in Venice, I was suddenly over there, whether I was ready or not. 

I was trying to make some videos but I really felt like I was failing my mission. I was getting more and more anxious and depressed with this sense of failure of what I would set out to do. 

—How did you change your mindset to a more positive state?

I learned the biggest lesson to reevaluate myself and that it is okay to reset or change the goals so that they are more realistic. That is the point that I said to myself, ‘Don’t worry about the videos, just live it.’ It was like a ‘Forest Gump’ kind of moment where I was ready to start running. 

From then on, although there were still mental challenges, my renewed sense of purpose was there to keep running and going on adventures. I came to believe that even if I didn’t know what the future held, I trusted that I would be able to find a solution when I face a challenge. So each challenge was an opportunity for me. 

Face Up To The Issue Of Mental Health

Once He overcame his first and the biggest challenge to starting running, he has come face to face with his own mental health as well as the issue of mental health in general. 

—How did you approach the stigma around mental illness during the Light Runner?

Before this challenge, I always felt shy and I had never really admitted to my own struggles. Being the Light Runner made me realise that I had been, am, and will encounter challenges with depression or anxiety at various times and stages in life. I realised that the most important thing is, as the motto of the Mental Health Australia says, that ‘mental health begins with you’. It is up to each of us to work on our own mental health. 

So I learned so much from this challenge that I needed to learn. Before then I wasn’t happy and I was stuck in a rut, and with this challenge, I learned to be happy without a home or all these things in modern life. I realised if I can be at my happiest moments in life without anything, that’s going to make me stronger to move forward. 

—It has been about 7 years since the Light Runner. How do you think society’s view on mental health changed in the world?

I think the world is changing, and the importance of mental health is starting to be more recognised. There definitely has been an improvement. From what I can see, how younger generations are being raised is quite optimistic, compared to the generations of my grandfather and my father, when mental health wasn’t observed or worked on. 

But there is a new challenge with mental health, which is the effects of social media. Back in 2015, it seemed like the whole world was addicted to it to the state where it is hard to draw the line between this digital world and the actual world. This I think is the recurring theme for discussion with people that needs to be addressed. 

So, What’s Next?

As the Light Runner in 2015 and now the head of a team building company named Unique Team Building, he is ready to move forward and continue improving the world’s approach towards mental health.

—What are your current goals regarding the Light Runner and improving people’s mental health?

Through my work with Unique Team Building, I’m focused on helping workplaces to create environments and support networks that are encouraging mental health. It is not just trying to get rid of mental illness but providing safe places so that people can support each other. I would like everyone to be as mentally healthy as they can be so they can live the happiest lives. 

For the Light Runner, I’m no longer running, but if there are people out there who are keen to become the next Light Runner, that would be amazing. 

Conclusion

TO BE YOUR HAPPIEST SELF

Listening to the story of the Light Runner was like following through the path to becoming mentally healthy. While running through the landscape of Europe with a strict rule of not staying in accommodation, Andrew experienced mental struggles, reflection and reevaluation of his own mental health, and overcoming those challenges by himself. At the end of his adventure, he had become the happiest state of himself without things that we often think are important for our happiness. 

BEING RESPONSIBLE FOR OUR OWN HEALTH

Nowadays, more and more scientists and professionals in various fields explain the importance of mental health. It is safe to say that we are starting to recognise how significant it is to be healthy both mentally and physically in our lives. 

But do we truly understand our mental health? Don’t we blame ourselves or see ourselves as failures when we struggle with life challenges? Are we thoughtful enough to ourselves so that we can take care of ourselves when being mentally unwell? 

I believe there is much more room for improvement. As a global society, we need to work more on mental health. It is so much more than just understanding various mental illnesses and helping those who struggle with their mental state. We should start with recognising the fact that mental health is everyone’s agenda. When being confronted with a challenge in your life, stay still for a while and reflect on your feelings and thoughts. Educate yourself about how to seek help when you need it. 

We are the ones who can improve our own mental health. Are you ready to become the next Light Runner? 

SHOW AND TELL NIGHT- 27/11/15…

I’m back and I have some stories to tell! Travel is a great metaphor for life, it has its challenges and its rewards. By setting up some odd rules and with the mission to raise money and spread awareness for Mental Health, I ended up having an epic 3 months.

At the start of my European journey, I realised I wouldn’t be able to do all the challenges, travel and free-wheelin adventure as well as editing together the videos (I would have been stuck in internet cafes the whole time).

So I didn’t get bogged down and instead stayed in the moment, and the result is I had many crazy experiences and have some great stories to tell. Ironically it was also great for my own Mental Health, and I’m keen open up discussions with you like Ive been doing with all sorts of people around the world.

I have photos to help tell the stories, so stay tuned for a venue and what will be included by joining the Event on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1519989064986628/

https://www.facebook.com/events/1519989064986628/

UPDATE- GONE ADVENTURING!!

A brief update, I realised that I  wont be able to make all the videos and update this site, while at the same doing all the challenges and capturing the adventures.

So this website is going to be on hold until I come back (when ill put it all together and also do a sponsor drive). For the best updates, you can make a donation (which gives you access to the images in full res), or befriend me on Facebook.

Thanks again for all the support, and please dont be shy to message through requests!

See you down the track…

A new way of getting to Airports

It was a big first day…

My first challenge was simply getting everything ready before I left. Not just preperation for The Light Runner, but also moving out of home and office. After smashing through plenty of work on minimal sleep, the countdown finally ended and it was time to begin. If it wasn’t for my Mum I wouldn’t have got away (thanks ma!).

It was a beautiful winters day.

The run to the airport ended up quite eventful. After a diversion (which was a great bonus along the cliffs), I was genuinely  worried for my life. I guess there’s something about the sound of gunfire nearby which is unsettling, along with not knowing if you’re  in a safe place.

I got some strange looks from golfers, so I chirped out at the…. “I’m off to the Airport, going to Europe for 3 months!”… it seemed to make slightly more sense for them.

I’d been enjoying the run too much. After months of planning, it was great to just be running. I started getting a bit concerned though about my timing. Stopping to film, take photos and fix up my gear (it started falling apart and I think it will be a while before my rig gets settled) meant I had to run twice as far in half as much time to get to the airport.

I decided not to be too risky, which ended up for the better as my right knee flared up and in the end it was a struggle to keep moving along Port Botany, where I arrived just in time to check in, buy plenty of subway and a gatorade (I hadn’t really eaten enough and didn’t drink much along the way).

So strange to say goodbye to my base of 4 + years. Litterally flying off on it.

Landing in Burnswick Heads it was great to be surrounded by family. As with the intro videos, I decided to exploit the cuteness of nephews for the video. Plus im still not sure how the blogs will work in terms of the tone and feel. Its easier to be natural with others around.

The plan is to do the Gold Coast Marathon early the next morning with Zac my brother in law, but I was already knackered and the adventures and only just begun.

DO YOU KNOW A COMPANY LOOKING FOR A GREAT SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITY?

We’re currently looking for Major and Minor sponsors. The plan for the Light Runner is to create as much awareness and following, which will mean great exposure for Mental Health, as well as companies that have made donations in order to become sponsors.

We want to give as much thanks as possible to our biggest supporters.

Contact us now to see the packages available, including specific details of where and when you can expect recognition. We want to ensure that as well as knowing you’re supporting a good cause, that you also receive great publicity so that it is a good marketing investment for you.

PLEDGES

You can make a pledge based on a certain challenge or milestone being met. For example you might say 50 cents for every km, or $10 for every photo with a thumbs up… you name it, I’ll try and do it!

Make your pledge in the comments below, or via a youtube comment, and I’ll add it to the list. You can pay straight away by donating, or email through your details so that you can pay when everything is done and dusted. We’ll be sure to send you a receipt.

Thanks for getting involved, and having some fun with your donation!

 

PLEDGES SO FAR

NAME

COMPANY

PLEDGE AMOUNT

CHALLENGE

 

To help you know what’s being tracked, below are some numbers:

WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES?

Im open to ideas!

Basically, I’m challenging myself as much as possible, to share as much as I can. The below are my current ideas, but I’m keen to hear your thoughts in the comments so that this list can grow. A big part of the challenge is creating videos on the go, but this is also the way I’ll be logging what I’ve done and what I’m planning… so subscribe and stay tuned.

I only have with me a running pack, a change of clothes and some camera gear. Find out more about The Light Runner and how I’m sharing my passions for running, photography and personal/team development.

100% of donations go towards Mental Health, and I’m very open to work in exchange of donations. You can see some suggestions on the right, or you can also make a pledge based on challenges completed. $1 for every kilometre I run, 500 Euros to take a group out of the office, one million dollars to do a marathon in every capital city of Europe… you name it!

 

IDEAS FOR CHALLENGES

  • Create videos and take requests
  • Light paint messages suggested by people making donations
  • Draw stop-motion images of a “light runner” to be made into a movie
  • Drawing using GPS tracking
  • Teach the joys of running to schools and office groups
  • Take groups team building
  • Run part or all of the Camino trail
  • Large scale light painting- from up high, lots of people, big areas
  • Set a Guinness World Record (surely there’s something wacky that I could achieve)
  • 24hr run
  • Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc course
  • Circumnavigate Mallorca
  • Run around key attractions “…” many times
  • Race certain trains, buses etc through cities. Maybe race people to work
  • Interviews
  • Longest continual run without stopping
  • Largest light painting
  • Race a horse over a long distance (technically, if given a long enough distance a human can beat a horse)
  • Cross every one of Venice’s canals
  • Tap into various interest groups to get them involved with a challenge
  • Do tasks while running
  • Enter marathons, obstacle course races and other events- do something unique in them (skip, wear an outfit, run with someone)
  • See how many times a country can be circumnavigated
  • Run to Nordkapp (northernmost part of Norway)
  • Run the Houtribdijk- dam wall
  • Luxembourg- most multicultural country in the world- see how many languages I can find
  • Run up San Marino
  • Swim with underwater torches… to make night photos

What’s your idea?

MAP OF PLANS AND PROGRESS

Please comment below with ideas of where to go and what to do. If you know people living or travelling in Europe, please share this with them and ask them to contact me with their details. Thanks!

Got some great ideas? Please leave in the comments below: