This morning marked the day for the “My 1000 Hours” 5km and 10km runs, which took place in the Phoenix Park. My 1000 Hours is a project that was a launched by Niall Breslin, more commonly known as Bressie, in the last year and its aim is to open up the discourse in the country on mental and emotional health with the ultimate goal being to improve both our mental and physical health and consequently feel better about ourselves overall. By improving our physical fitness and diet, in addition to honestly addressing our emotional and mental state, the project seeks emphasises the link between the mental and physical and essentially advocates that by honestly dealing with both, we possess the ability to make ourselves be happier. We can take back control of our health, our minds and our lives. It’s a cause that everyone can identify with and one which is relevant to everyone. An honest one and a good one.
My 1000 Hours operates via its website and a regular blog which includes insightful posts with helpful practical tips on how to deal with mental health issues. Leading the project, as mentioned above, is Bressie. Now, until recently I had no idea who Bressie was and although referred to in Ireland simply by this title, he had began to take on a somewhat mythical quality. No idea what he did, who he was or where he came from, other than that he was a judge on the Voice of Ireland (X Factor-esque Sunday night programme…), which I didn’t watch so he had no face either as far as I was concerned! Niall Breslin is, in fact, a former inter-county GAA player and hurler; a former Leinster and u/21 Ireland rugby player; songwriter; music producer; and former axe man and lead vocals in The Blizzards. A very impressive CV by anyone’s standards. This fella first came to my attention when he started to speak out about his own anxiety disorder and his experience of panic attacks as a judge on the programme while recording the show. What caught my attention in no small way was how honest he was in telling his story to the public and his acknowledgement of how difficult it is to for people in Ireland to talk about their emotional health with other people. He grasped the sense of shame and failure too many people in this island nation seem to feel in trying to tell people how they are feeling. I identified with this immediately as I have never found it easy to talk to Irish people about how I feel. There is a sense of pride in being able to suck it up, keep a steady lip and march on. Feeling sad, disappointed, hurt, lost or just down are seen as a weakness, or at least that is how it has often felt to me. So we say nothing, button up and march on. Is it right or wrong? Bressie is seeking to change this. He wants to table the subject on the national agenda and make emotional health a matter of pride, not just physical health. The two go together (like peas and carrots, as Forrest Gump would say!). In addition to contributing via the website, he has appeared on TV chat shows, written articles in the Irish Independent and spoken at events and in doing so he continues to make this a national priority. I’m all for it and I think Bressie is doing a fantastic job. He can be very proud.
Unfortunately, the 5km and 10km runs this morning let the cause down and I while I hate raining any negativity down on this super movement, the organisation of the event was exceptionally poor. Registration, number collection, tee shirt collection was a disaster zone to the extent that most of the 5km participants, who were due to take off before the 10km runners, missed their race completely. Rather than sending race numbers out in the post or setting up a collection point in a location on another day(s) like most races, the only option available was to do it all on race morning beside the start line of the race, which might have worked if there were not 4,000 people taking part. It didn’t. We queued for over an hour, missed the 5km race and nearly missed the 10km race. The number collection zones were not clearly marked and were only identifiable by an a4 sheet with teeny tiny print inside the tents, which meant they could not be seen from the end of the many very long queues. As a result, we saw a lot of people around us reaching the top of their queues only to be told that they were in the wrong queue and would have to start again. What was worse however, was when we reached the promised land and showed the lady at registration our booking references, she couldn’t find our numbers, said that she probably gave them out to someone else and that we could just take any number we liked. They didn’t care and it showed. Now, it was for a good cause so it wasn’t a showstopper and none of these things matter hugely but having paid for the event you expect a certain level of professionalism in the organisation and while we were a bit ticked off after the marathon session of registration, I felt more annoyed for Bressie that he now had 4000 odd people who were possibly now also ticked off, and swearing off ever doing his run again. His cause needs to be lifted off the ground and this did nothing to help that. This was not Bressie’s fault, nor that of his cause so neither should be allowed to suffer as a result. Different organisers for next year’s race, however, would go a long way to upping the positivity.