Conor’s Aware Christmas Run Challenge
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Conor’s Aware Christmas Run Challenge

Conor Walsh has set himself a challenge to pull 399 pounds around the 5K Aware Christmas Run route. Each pound represents a person who died by suicide in 2016*. Anyone who is registered to take part in the run this year can opt to lighten Conor’s load and carry one pound of weight by emailing him directly at conorschristmassleigh@gmail.com.

Conor is a Gym Instructor/Personal Trainer from Dublin. He's been working in the leisure industry for three years and is passionate about helping other people achieve their goals and improving their quality of life. Conor believes keeping his body healthy is the foundation of his mental health. This challenge is very close to his heart and he is hoping to raise as much awareness as possible.

Why take on this challenge?

My motivation for the challenge took root at the Aware Christmas Run last year. I had seen it advertised and I wanted to do something no matter how little for a good cause. 

I loved the event and had a great experience. I felt empowered by the people around me. I felt their enthusiasm to raise awareness for a cause so close to all their hearts. I felt part of something special standing at the start line. I walked out of the Phoenix Park that day a happy man but I wanted to do more. 

Conor's story

As the months rolled on, I kept up the running. Sunday evenings were my dedicated time to run. I ran to clear my head and set myself up for the week ahead. On one particular run when I stopped along the cliffs to take a breathe, looking out towards the sea, I could feel anxiety building in my body. I shook out my legs to head off, but I couldn’t. I tried to cough and I couldn't breathe. I felt weak and I was overwhelmed with a feeling telling me I couldn't make it home. I was terrified.

I have been around people with mental health issues most of my adult life and I always felt I was aware of my own mental health. I believed if I was to ever have a problem with my wellbeing it would come on slowly and I could recognise and deal with it. That day I found myself looking off the face of this cliff thinking why did I come here and struggling to remember the last time I was happy. I told myself to run and not to stop until I got home. 

I got to my front door, my heart was racing, I was covered in sweat. I had a cold shower and went to bed, I had never felt anything like this before. While I had experienced panic attacks, I wouldn't have ever considered myself depressed or suicidal. I didn't know I was, until I was.

The months that followed were tough but my increased awareness and acceptance of my experience, allowed me to make the changes necessary to improve my health. Thankfully, I'm in a much better position now. I now know what I need to do every day to feel well and I make sure to do it.

During those tough months I was made aware of the number of deaths by suicide in Ireland every year and they really struck a chord with me. I was horrified and felt such loss for everyone who wasn't as lucky to make it home. I want people to visually grasp the scale of this number. I want people to feel the shock I did (and still do). I want people to feel comfortable asking for help, not worrying about judgement.

Get Involved

I made it home that night but on another night, I might not have. That is why I want to raise as much as I can to help make sure more people make it home at the end of the day. 

If you would like to get involved in Conor's challenge, you can email him directly at conorschristmassleigh@gmail.com

To register for the Aware Christmas Run - click here

Photographs: Conor Walsh (pulling the sleigh) with Leinster rugby player Joey Carbery, presenter Cassie Stokes, blogger and personal trainer Rosemary MacCabe and elves Ryleigh Brady and Matthew Hannon, Photographer: Naoise Culhane

*based on provisional figures released by the HSE

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