More than a Moustache: The 24 hour Walk for Mental health with Aidan Kent
Most people have heard about Movember before, but if not, let me introduce this amazing movement that an Aberdeen student has taken part in and raised over £1000. The centre of the movement is men’s health. They bring awareness to and raise money for anything that is men’s health. Their main concerns are prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health in general. This year Aidan Kent, a 4th-year university student, decided to raise money to bring awareness to men’s mental health. And how successful he was! Aidan and his friend, Emile, decided to do a 24-hour walk, challenging themselves physically but also mentally to raise money for Movember. Now let’s get into what Aidan had to say
about his experience with Movember this year.
Would you like to tell me a bit about yourself?
Yeah, absolutely. I’m a 4th-year student at Robert Gordon University, studying Sport and Exercise Science. I’ve kind of been involved with various clubs and societies throughout uni right up until 4th year and then this year has been more focused on my dissertation.
What was your main reason for participating in Movember?
I have always been a person that’s felt mental health was super important, but in December 2019, I had a friend who took his own life which was a real turning point into something that felt close to home. This was the motivation for doing something this year, for him and others who suffer along with this being my last year in uni.
Let’s talk about your fundraiser!
This year, the Officer’s training course -which I’m apart of- decided to raise money collectively as a team towards Movember. The group ran many different fundraising events, but we wanted to have a stand-out and do a big challenge ourselves. So, me and my good friend, Emile, set ourselves the challenge to walk for 24-hours straight. That was from Elgin to Inverness along the coast. But we wanted it to be tough, we wanted it to be testing our mental strength as much as our physical strength. So yeah, it was a great challenge. We enjoyed that.
How did you advertise your fundraiser?
We kind of wanted to put the word out there as wide as possible, not only in Aberdeen but to my family up in Inverness and down south where Emile was from as well. So, we advertised it throughout social media platforms and then from that, we had such a great response with words of encouragement. We were just so motivated by people’s words of encouragement. It was cool to see how it unfolded from there. We told so many people about it, and you know, we started it at that point so we couldn’t stop. The only thing we could do is to keep going forward. And it was all through people’s support online that kept us going. I think this was the whole idea behind the kind of challenge to show the power of communication with each other, being there for each other as moral support. I mean that is one of the main things behind Movember to open up and be honest about your feelings and mental health. And doing a challenge like that just showed the power of how communication can help people.
Were there any specific things that helped you prepare for the walk?
I’d say, we are pretty fit individuals as it is, you know just doing the military training that we do, but there have been very few things that I've done that put me in such a difficult mental state as that 24-hour walk. I think it’s a really difficult thing to prepare for. So, in the past, I've been fortunate enough to go overseas. We did a trek in the Himalayas to the Everest base camp. Various expeditions in treks that I've done in the past have given me a good experience of what walking 8-10 hours a day would be like. But you know doing 8-10 hours a day is all fine when you know that you'll be getting a good night’s sleep at the end and a hot meal. But then when you're 10 hours in and you know that you’ve got another 12 hours ahead of you is tough. It is hard to train up for something like that. It helps a lot having someone else there with you. I think I would have struggled if I was by myself. You know, having Emile there with me and just pushing each other on when things did get tough.
How did you experience the walk mentally and physically?
Having experience with doing 7-8-hour walks, the first bit was nice getting to explore the coastline. We found it all good and well until we got to Forres. At Forres, we stopped at a train station and the exhaustion and blisters were really taking their toll; We’d only been walking for 8 hours, this is one-third of the journey and we thought it's going to be really, really tough. While resting a bit beside the train station, we heard the tannoy for Inverness: our next location. The temptation was our first wall, but it's all down to us, so literally in a few seconds, we were like no, we are going to keep going. So, we put our boots back on and we just powered through. So, the next time when we hit the wall, was when we were approaching Nairn probably about 6 or 7 hours on from Forres. The path that we were following suddenly just disappears on the coast. Our objective was just to follow the coast and we were trying to follow it as much as possible. The terrain became very difficult and marshy, so we ended up walking through this marshy ground for about 2 miles. The water was way past our boots, our feet were just soaking and we were thinking: what are we doing? We can't turn back; we have our timing to meet. That was when we really hit the second wall. We were getting miserable and grumpy. We could see the lights in Nairn and it was really motivating to see that we are getting there, as this was where my friend who we lost last December lived. From Nairn to Inverness was definitely the hardest part. Me and Emile went through these spells of 1 or 2 hours not even speaking to each other. I think in the last few hours we picked up our moral seeing that Inverness was coming in. We just saw the sun coming up and thinking we were nearly there. We hit lots of little walls along the way but as I said it was the messages and the donations that were coming in along the way that was just hugely motivating for us. And every time a donation would come in me and Emile would do a quick celebration. We were just so happy that the word was getting out to people.
Did it take a full 24 hours to get to Inverness from Elgin?
We set off on Friday the 13th of November at 8 a.m. and we finished at 8 a.m. on Saturday the 14th. We did so well, we got into Inverness 10 minutes before our timing so we were a little bit quicker. So, what we did was a little loop in the car park. We got picked up at Tesco by my mum and dad. So, In the last 10 minutes, we just did this slow walk around the car park and on the dot, at 8 o’clock we jumped in the car. Our timing was quite spot on, to be honest. I think we covered a total of 93.5 km.
Did you have a plan on how to do the fundraiser?
I've done a lot of fundraising in the past. I took a year out before I came to university and I lived in South Africa for a year. So, I had to raise quite a lot of funds for that. I think I had to raise around £6000. That was even before I came to university, so I was about 18 years old. That was an eye-opener for me, just understanding how reaching out to your contacts, your close friends, and family helps. So, this was all before I came to uni. And then, I joined a raising and giving. That’s when I went over to Nepal and we were raising money for CHAS (Children’s Hospices Across Scotland). So collectively, as a group, we raised £40k for them, and then last year in my 3rd year of university I went over to Uganda as part of the East African Playgrounds, which is another charity, and we built a playground out there. We had to raise £6000 individually for that which went directly to Project Uganda. When it came to this year, obviously with COVID bringing everything to the stance, I was looking for something to do. When Movember came around it was a great opportunity for me to try and raise some money and that’s when I decided to make a big fundraiser. So, I thought why not go big and just try and attempt something that you don’t get much. I think that was one of the main reasons why many of the people were showing lots of support and were generous with their donations online. I am blown away by how much we ended up raising at the end of it. I enjoy doing stuff like that. I always try and give back as much as possible.
Do you have any tips for anyone who is starting with fundraising? What is the best and successful way?
To start with fundraising, the best thing you can do is to reach out to close friends and family. That will just give you that kick start. Even if it's just small little things, any kind of a trickle donation coming in will be hugely motivating for you, but will also kick start your fundraising. From that, you have to do something whether it’s a challenge or something that will put you out of your comfort zone. Find something that is unique, unheard of, interesting but is also going to challenge you. If you were to host an event you want to see what your audience is looking for. Post-COVID times: great things are bake sales and car boot sales. To be honest as students, I don’t think they are as effective as doing something like a pub quiz or something where you can get your peer-groups together. Being very interactive with people that will be donating to you is a huge part of it as well. For example, posting regular updates, showing the audience or the people that are interested in what you are doing. And just always being grateful for any donation or anything you get can go a long way.
Go and check out Aidan’s fundraiser that you can find at this link:
If you suffer from mental health issues, please reach out to your friends and family, or a professional body.
The Samaritans 116 123
Support Line 01708 765200
Mind 0300 123 3393
NHS Direct 111