Charles Mears set himself two punishing physical challenges to raise money for West Sussex Mind. Here, he describes why and how.

October 2020

I was sitting outside my flat, crying in my car, when it hit me. If I didn’t go inside and finally talk to my fiancée about the way I was feeling, that would be it. I’d become another statistic, another person who didn’t make it. And I really, really didn’t want that person to be me.

My problems had started a few weeks before. I was feeling stressed at work, not coping and overwhelmed by it all. At that point I’d been able to work it off at the gym on my way home, and could pretend to everyone I was fine. But I just wasn’t. The day I decided to tell my fiancée was the day I hadn’t even been able to set foot inside the gym I was feeling so bad.

Of course, talking to her made all the difference to me. She was brilliant, really supportive. My employer has a healthcare scheme which gives access to mental health support as well as physical.

It was after my recovery that I decided I wanted to give something back to the community. To help people like me, but who aren’t so lucky having a great partner, or access to mental health support through their work. So for me, it was all about the physical challenge – because right up until I hit rock bottom that had always worked for me. That was the way I was going to help people, and now I regularly help people running outdoor fitness sessions, and encouraging them to talk about mental health.

The idea for the skateboarding challenge came from talking to my friends Lewis and Andy, as well as Lucy, who’s a skateboarding professional. A marathon is a real challenge – I’ve run a few in the past. But riding to Brighton and back would give us the chance to stop and chat to people, to raise awareness as well as funds for my local mental health charity, West Sussex Mind.

Our target was £500, but we hit that quite easily. As the weekend went on, and more and more people heard about what we were doing through social media and the local paper, our fundraising total went up. The marathon itself was quite hard work, but we were supported by a great team. Four of us - me, Lewis, Lucy and Mason - started in Worthing at 7am and expected to get to Brighton and back by around 11.30. In fact, we arrived at our end point, in the pouring rain, at about 1pm, having had a blast. And we ended the day having raised over £2,200.

I was so happy to have smashed our target, that the next weekend I decided to do 2,200 burpees over a 24-hour period, and get the total up a bit. I really enjoy a physical challenge, and burpees seemed a perfect metaphor for picking yourself up off the floor.

In the end, I’ve raised around £2.5k, and I’m so, so happy. Next year, we’re going to come back bigger and raise even more money for West Sussex Mind.

I can’t wait.