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Unique 'balance marathon' raises charity funds

Words by Smiley Team

People across the country are taking part in a unique fundraiser – a ‘Balance Marathon’ – to raise money for parkour mental health charity Free Your Instinct.

Free Your Instinct combines parkour with mental health treatment. Far from the adrenaline-filled, fast-paced sport you might envision, this discipline is all about problem solving.

For those who don’t know, parkour is an activity that boils down to getting from point A to point B in the fastest, most efficient and fluid way possible. While in the past, the media made it seem like it’s simply jumping from one building to another over terrifyingly large gaps, Free Your Instinct proves it's something entirely different.

Founded by Charlotte Boenigk, a former exercise specialist for the NHS Mental Health Services, Free Your Instinct focuses on giving people who struggle with their mental health the tools to cope. By teaching people to get from point A to point B – and challenging them to figure out the best way to do so, despite the obstacles in their path – a mental reframing starts to happen.

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The charity has been so successful in their work that health professionals will refer their patients to Free Your Instinct, from NHS Mental Health Services, including CAMHS to GPs.

 ”We make sure we have a multidisciplinary team approach as much as possible,” explains Charlotte. Though she once taught parkour herself, she has since taken a step back to oversee the charity and finish her PhD.

“If someone self-refers… I always try and ask who their care coordinator is, just in case we need to feedback – and most people are happy with that.”

What's the 'Balance Marathon'?

The ‘Balance Marathon’ fundraiser consists of pledging to balance for a certain distance – whether that is on a curb, a railing, or even some scaffolding, as Charlotte confesses she once did.

During their 2021 fundraiser, still in lockdown thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, Free Your Instinct aimed for a collective total of 149km – the length of the Nullarbor Straight in Australia, which is often referred to as "The Long and Lonely Road".

They did this to reflect the struggle and isolation of the Covid-19 lockdowns, and finished with a total of 334km.

In 2022, they're aiming to get ‘one million steps for mental health’, approximately 701km – the challenge is to balance a certain distance on a line/wall/rail. All funds raised will help them support refugees and people displaced by conflict. They're currently working with the Refugee Resettlement Programme in Bristol.

Though they have been able to offer short courses to some of the children there, Free Your Instinct is hoping to offer longer courses in the future.

Inspired to act?

DONATE: You can give financial support to the Balance Marathon online.

GET INVOLVED: Sign up to the Balance Marathon and fundraise for Free Your Instinct.

VOLUNTEER: Volunteer with Free Your Instinct to help those who struggle with mental illness, as well as those displaced by conflict.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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