FOR many teenagers their mid-term break away from school is a time to kick back, take it easy and relax.
Not so for 16-year-old Claire Cuddihy from Lissycasey who this February is set to take on an incredible challenge with the aim of raising mental health awareness as well as funds for a well-known charity.
Claire is preparing to complete not one, but an amazing, seven marathons over the course of just one week in aid of Pieta.
The student of St John Bosco Community College, Kildysart, will be taking on a gruelling 42km run each day, getting back out on the track every day for seven straight days in a row.
Speaking to The Clare Champion ahead of her marathon challenge, she laughs as she considers the daunting challenge she has set herself.
More seriously, however, she adds her strong belief that the issue of mental health needs to be highlighted, while she also wants to raise awareness and funds for Pieta. Talking about the cause she tells us, “It means so much to me.”
Explaining why she decided to take on the marathon challenge, she says, “Mental health is such a huge issue in today’s society. I wanted to do something because there is still a stigma out there around it.
“Through Pieta House’s website I learned €1,000 helps one person through all of their counselling. This is a subject that is very close to my heart and I wanted to do something to change the way society looks at mental health issues.
“Running has always been a therapy for me so I thought why not run seven marathons? It’s such a good cause and if it takes running seven marathons for people to realise how much things need to change, then that’s what I will do.
“For me to have an opportunity to really try to make a difference, even if it is just one person I can help, then it is worth it.”
A keen basketball player, Claire plays with Limerick Celtics and has been selected for the Ireland U17 Basketball Team. She also coaches Clare Comets and Ennis Raptors.
This is the first time Claire has ever attempted a challenge like this.
Claire will be taking on her marathons at John O’Sullivan Park, Lee’s Road every day for seven days in a row from February 13 and she has been busily training in preparation for the fundraiser.
“Doing something like this, as bizarre as it is, is obviously going to push me both physically and mentally.
“When you exercise it gives off endorphins and it gives you a sense or feeling of happiness. But then when you are pushing your body through pain to see how far I can go mentally, that is going to be interesting,” she says.
Talking through her training schedule she outlines, “I have five run days, there’s a strength day and then a lower intensity day to try and recover.
“It’s going ok but it’s hard to fit in with basketball training. It’s tough to balance that and all the limits on my body, so knowing my body and knowing when to stop is a really important thing.
“Trying to find the balance is hard, but it’s good. I’m exhausted in the mornings when I wake up to go for an early run before training, but it’s one of those things, like once you go out, you feel ten times better. Self discipline is definitely something this has taught me.”
Claire tells us she has been overwhelmed with the level of support she has received from her family, friends and sports clubs.
“I’m really lucky to have an amazing support bubble around me of family, friends, teams, coaches and players. To have people who support me, tell me how wacky of an idea it is, but also to support me in the decision I have made.
“When you put something out like this you really do see the community that you actually have behind you. People truly do want to make a difference. I think it’s really cool to see everyone come together in support of what I am trying to do.”
Claire is hopeful of not only raising funds to help provide vital help for those in need, but that the issue of mental health and the need for services will be highlighted.
“If this doesn’t spark in people the fact that someone is running seven marathons in a week because our society doesn’t have enough help for people with mental health issues then I don’t know what will.
“Someone told me, ‘you could have run one marathon’, but people run one marathon every year and we’re still in the same spot we are in.
“Someone had up online lately that it’s easier to get a pizza delivered to your house than it is to get help when you are literally at your wits end. I want to create a change and to do that
I’m doing something bizarre to kind of spark in people and help people who need it.”
Claire is hoping that people will donate to the cause, and she has set up an online fundraiser which so far at the time of going to press has raised nearly half of her €1,500 goal.
“Every donation will help. Pieta House is a charity providing vital help for those who are most in need of mental help. They rely on our donations to reach as many people as possible.
“Mental health is such a huge issue in today’s society and I want to be able to make a difference. Choosing to run seven marathons in seven days is no easy task but doing it for a cause as worthy for Pieta House will make it all worthwhile.”
Pieta provide a professional one-to-one therapeutic service to people who are in suicidal distress, those who engage in self-harm, and those bereaved by suicide. All of its services are provided free of charge and no referral is needed.
Pieta first opened its doors in Lucan, County Dublin in 2006. Since then it has seen and helped over 70,000 people in suicidal distress or engaging in self-harm.
It now operates 20 locations across Ireland, employing over 200 therapists and support staff, with the demand for our service increasing.
In 2021 Pieta delivered over 48,000 hours of intervention and bereavement counselling. They received almost 100,000 crisis support calls and texts through its 24 freephone helpline. Pieta directly supported over 600 households devastated by the loss of a loved one by suicide.
“We need help more than ever to support our free lifesaving work. We rely on the generosity of the public, whose donations and fundraising make up over 80% of our income,” stated Pieta.
To donate visit www.gofundme.com/f/7-marathons-in-7-days-for-pieta-house