Words by Abi Scaife
As the only person who has run a marathon on every continent dressed as a piece of fruit, Sally Orange’s history is nothing to be sniffed at.
An avid mental health campaigner, military veteran and adventure athlete, Sally has recently taken on the ultimate challenge - The World Marathon Challenge.
“I always like to make people smile and when you're dressed as a banana or an orange or an apple, people smile!” laughs Sally. “But then they often then ask ‘why?’. And I then tell them that I'm trying to break down the stigma associated with mental ill health. And it really subtly starts that conversation.”
A military veteran with a background in physiotherapy, Sally has always had an interest in the physical, and when she isn’t running marathons for charity, she's often still pushing her body to the limits for the sake of her mental health.
“I would probably say that running saved my life,” says Sally. “There are times when it's really, really hard. I can't ever say that any of those marathons have got any easier. But when you've got a purpose, you know that the extra steps you’re taking could raise the money that helps somebody in [need].”
For a long time, Sally struggled with her mental health, which is just one of the reasons she's so passionate about supporting mental health charities and reducing the stigma. Because of that stigma, there were many years she didn’t seek help for her own struggles - and she's determined that now she feels able, she will help others who are in the same situation.
“I suffered quite severely and still do - I've had depression and anxiety [for] over 22 years,” explains Sally. “And I really feel that if I'd got help sooner, it wouldn't have got to the point where I wanted to take my life on a couple of occasions.
“I've been really lucky to get help and move through it to a point where I can manage the illness, rather than the illness managing me, and I don't want other people to have to wait as long before they get that help.”
Since getting the help she needed for her mental health, Sally has become a huge advocate, embarking on fundraisers, becoming an ambassador and more. For the World Marathon Challenge, she has chosen seven charities; The Duke of Edinburghs Award (DofE), The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA), Marathon Kids UK, Armed Forces, Para-Snowsport Team (AFPST), Ripple Suicide Prevention, Walking with the Wounded and Scotty's Little Soldiers.
“I have raised money for over 50 charities in the past, [so] it was kind of quite hard to just [pick] one!” explains Sally. “So I thought well, it's 7-7-7; it fits well to do seven charities. That means that I can get the message further and wider.”
The World Challenge comprises seven marathons, in seven countries, all done within seven days. Besides the obvious physical challenges, there are also logistical challenges - travelling from one country to the next, accounting for weather and more. Sally ran marathons in Antarctica, Cape Town, Perth, Dubai, Madrid, Fortaleza and Miami, and Smiley News was able to speak to her just a matter of hours before she set off for her first marathon.
“I am just breaking it down into small chunks … so I'm not even thinking about Miami yet. It's too much, it's too overwhelming if you think of everything,” says Sally. “That's like mental health. When I've been really unwell, the thought of going out and going to a pub is … at my worst, it wasn't something that I’d be able to achieve. But if I could get dressed on that day, and then the next day, maybe get dressed and have a shower … it's always just looking at the little step in front of you.”
Support Sally on her incredible journey by donating to her JustGiving page.