James Cooper

Smilinggg at Gods Own Backyard Ultra

Fundraising for Samaritans
raised of £1,000 target
by 58 supporters
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Gods Own Backyard Ultra, 20 May 2023

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Monday 15th May - Sunday 21st May 2023 is this year's Mental Health Awareness Week. Rather fittingly, Smilinggg celebrates its 8th birthday on Wednesday 17th May, and to top this off, later this week on Saturday 20th May, I will take my place in the corral in search of God. Participating in Gods Own Backyard Ultra... The Last Person Standing Event in Leeds, West Yorkshire.

Tying this altogether, I am launching this Pop-Up Fundraising page to try and raise as much money as I can to support Samaritans during Mental Health Awareness Week and Gods Own Backyard Ultra.

The task is simple on paper. A last person standing race. Run a 4.167-mile loop every hour. You are eliminated if you fail to complete a loop in an hour. Sadly, it's not run on paper. It's run on a combination of trails and a canal path hour after hour after hour after hour... This will likely go on for 2 days.

So you might be asking WHY? Why on earth would anyone do such a thing? As always. To share all of my why's would take up too much of your time, so here's my shortened version.

In 2014 and 2015 I experienced a depressive period within my life that rocked me to my core. An emptiness that is difficult to convey with words. I can't recall exactly when, but I remember reading a book called Mindset by a lady Carol S. Dweck. I didn't quite realise at the time, but it planted a seed and ignited the faintest spark in my mind. The power to believe we can improve. That who we are in this very moment isn't who we always have to be. It opened my awareness on an intellectual level that we can grow and things can and will improve through purposeful effort.

Over the course of many months, with small but purposeful effort, my situation did slowly but surely improve, and what came from the darkness was Smilinggg. The Smilinggg Mile proved fundamental in helping me improve my mental health and wellbeing. It has since provided me with a framework to live my life by. Not bad considering it all started by Googling 'How to be happy.'

It was feeling a sense of hope that allowed me to take that first step, and as Lao Tzu so elegantly wrote

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step."

This was 8 years ago. Since then I've understood Carol S Dweck's teachings on an experiential level and ultimately it's been through endurance pursuits that I've obtained this wisdom. Since 2015, with thanks to our Smilinggg community, and the annual Smilinggg Ultra Endurance fundraisers, we've raised £20,847.61 for mental health charities.

It's a reminder that things can and will improve with each small step. That first step can be with The Smilinggg Mile.

It would be naive of me to say I am glad I experienced depression. However, I am grateful for the lessons I have learned and the direction my life has taken since.

As the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said

"That which does not kill us, makes us stronger."

Unfortunately mental illness is still claiming lives.

Every year 703,000 people take their own life and there are many more people who attempt suicide. Every suicide is a tragedy that affects families, communities and entire countries and has long-lasting effects on the people left behind. Suicide occurs throughout the lifespan and was the fourth leading cause of death among 15-29 year-olds globally in 2019.

That's why I'll be fundraising to support the incredible work Samaritans does 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to carry out their mission

We’re here every day and night of the year for anyone struggling to cope. We make sure people have somewhere to turn and support when they need it most. We work with communities to let people know we’re here for them and we campaign to make suicide prevention a priority.


- Raises money for Samaritans to enable them to carry out their visions and missions.

- Raises awareness of Smilinggg and encourages participation in The Smilinggg Mile.

- Encourages people to talk and listen openly and compassionately about their own and others mental health.

- Provides hope and inspiration to take the 'first step'.

- To redefine what is possible in each and every one of us.

- Reminds people mental health awareness is every day and we experience mental health on a sliding scale in the very same way as physical health.

- The power to believe both we and situations can improve.

Then it will have been worth every one of my steps and smiles on this mammoth backyard ultra race.

Thank you for reading



About the charity


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Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year providing a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them. For more information please visit www.samaritans.org

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