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Paddling 125 miles to raise money and awareness of mental health

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After witnessing the hardship of poor mental health through the loss of loved ones and those close by suffering with various conditions, Shaun Booth decided to combine fundraising with his love of endurance challenges. His total? Over £2000 for the mental health charity, Mind.

Here he tells his story.

“Like so many others, the effects of Suicide and mental health continue to have a deep and lasting impact on my life. Over the years, I've lost my Dad and a number of close friends to suicide, as well as witnessing close friends and family struggle daily with mental health issues. Since losing my Dad 15 years ago I have often thought about ways in which I can help to make a difference to those who could use some help and support.

I have always enjoyed Kayaking and have owned one since my early twenties. Although not a regular paddler, I have taken part in endurance events in the past and have a good level of general fitness

I had always wanted to have a go at the devices to Westminster Canoe race but had never quite got round to it. Having recently moved near to the River Severn, an idea began to hatch…

After a search on the internet I found an itinerary for a trip, starting at Welshpool Quay and finishing in Gloucester. An ex-military man myself, I spoke to a work colleague from the Army Reserves in the hope of gaining a confidence boost. After explaining my plan and taking on-board plenty of tips, she gave me the thumbs up and the imputes I needed to start the fund raiser.

Due to the time of year and the shortening length of days I had two options; to save the challenge for next year or do it now. After some frantic planning and thought, I decided the following week would be the best option.

I completed a training weekend to overcome a couple of hurdles including Kayaking at night and passing through the Jackfield Rapids, just beyond Ironbridge. During the weekend I covered just over 60 miles and kayaked the first half of the route without any problems.

After taking few days to rest, it was all down to planning, preparation and getting on with the real challenge. Kayaking the 125 miles solo.

The challenge began before sunrise to give me plenty of time to get through the Jackfield rapids before dark and I made good progress through the day - much quicker than my training run. My support team comprised of my mum and partner who passed me packed lunches and water every four – six hours at various rest points.

The locks were a bit of a pain with difficult access and egress and at about 3:00am I got really tired and paddled the wrong way up the river putting a huge dent in my morale. This isn’t as stupid as it sounds! Or maybe it is, I’m not sure, either way, that’s what I did!

But the paddle wasn’t just about completing the distance, for me being near, or on water gives me a real boost mentally. I get so much enjoyment from being outdoors and the trip led me to think why I haven’t done more of this!?

I finished the distance at just after 10:00am the following day in a time of 27 hours 50 minutes, feeling a little disappointed that I wasted quite a bit of time but really pleased to have finished feeling pretty good and without any injuries. The journey down the River Severn was an amazing experience with a real feel of glorious wilderness about it, and one which I would strongly encourage others to take.

In total I raised £2,106.00 for MIND who continue to do incredible work to help and support those who need it, now more than ever!

If you would like to donate Shaun's fundraising page can be found here.

If you're new to paddling, make sure you get familiar with the basics with our Go Paddling eLearning here and check out the information on our Go Paddling website too.