Teachers take on marathon awareness challenge

By Jamie Lowe

A team of local teachers will push themselves physically during the school holidays, all in the name of mental health awareness.

Deniliquin North Public School principal Mark Peterson and Deniliquin High School physical education teachers Brenda Norman and Josh Perizzolo will each embark on their own FIVE IN FIVE challenges in the first week of October.

They will each exceed marathon distances, every day for five consecutive days, in their respective disciplines.

Mr Peterson will hike 212km, Miss Norman will swim 100km and Mr Perizzolo will cycle 800km from Monday, October 5 to Friday, October 9 as part of the challenge.

The FIVE IN FIVE community initiative is a joint venture for Hiking 4 Health, Habitat and Humanity, Channel 4 Change and Deniliquin Mental Health Awareness Group as part of Mental Health Month in October.

MHAG member Lourene Liebenberg is encouraging everyone to get involved in their own FIVE IN FIVE challenge.

‘‘This idea originated with some initiatives around wellbeing and physical activity,’’ Mrs Liebenberg said.

‘‘An online resource called the ‘5 ways to wellbeing’ was identified some months ago; as was the online REACHOUT challenge.

‘‘This initiative introduces you to five simple and effective ways to improve your psychological and emotional health.

‘‘The five ways are Connect, Be Active, Keep Learning, Be Aware and Help Others.

‘‘Deni MHAG saw this as an opportunity to involve all of the community and to transform ‘5 ways’ into each individual’s version of the Channel 4 Change FIVE IN FIVE.

‘‘We recognise that not everyone can take up physical challenges to the level of these three teachers, but we want to use this theme to expand on this challenge in a way where everyone can participate.

‘‘With COVID-19 still restricting our annual face-to-face events, this FIVE IN FIVE challenge slowly transformed into an ‘online event challenge’ for the Deni community, and an opportunity to share existing resources through various platforms.’’

Mr Peterson will hike along the Long Paddock touring route from Hay Sunset Viewing Area to Moama.

He will look to cover 42km each day, the distance of a marathon, camping and being self-sufficient along the way.

Mr Peterson started his journey of raising awareness about the world in which we live through hiking, establishing ‘Hiking 4 Health, Habitat and Humanity’ in 2017.

‘‘It all started because my grandfather had Parkinson’s disease, so I wanted to raise money and awareness for Parkinson’s to ensure a better future for the next generation,’’ Mr Peterson said.

‘‘I started the planning process of hiking 1200km around Shikoku, Japan over 55 days before COVID saw that option off the table.

‘‘I noticed that people were putting things off due to COVID and I didn’t want to use it as an excuse to stop my challenge.

‘‘We can have as much adventure and excitement here and doing this shows that if I can challenge myself, others can too.

‘‘I wanted to set myself a challenge that I might fail at, just to show that it’s okay to face failure. I want to encourage the attitude towards failure as being a learning experience and not a negative thing.

‘‘We’ve had the students at school coming up with their own FIVE IN FIVE challenges to participate in, so hopefully we have a lot of people get involved with this.’’

Despite completing swims across the English and Catalina Channels, Miss Norman, who is the founder of Channel 4 Change, said this could be her toughest physical challenge to date.

‘‘I’ll swim 20 kilometres each day for five consecutive days,’’ she said.

‘‘I’ve completed plenty of 20 kilometre swims before, but never five in a row. I’ll be doing all of my swimming in the Edward River, so I’m hoping the river temperature increases over the next few weeks.

‘‘Our challenge is five marathons in five days, and we want people to post on the Channel 4 Change Facebook page and pledge what they will do for those five days.’’

Mr Perizzolo will also be covering a marathon distance each day, pledging to ride 160km each day.

He has had an ideal preparation for the five-day test, taking part in the Starlight Tour de Kids challenge this month.

By the end of September Mr Perizzolo will have clocked up 1500km of riding for the month.

‘‘Brenda asked if I’d be interested in taking part in the FIVE IN FIVE challenge and I wanted to do what I can to help raise awareness for mental health,’’ he said.

‘‘All of my events with Spartan racing are off the table so I’ve recently taken to cycling to keep active.

‘‘I want to encourage people to get out there and challenge themselves, as physical activity has a direct correlation to mental health.’’

The trio are currently in the planning stage to meet up during their separate challenges. They will likely meet up for breakfast on Thursday, October 8, when Mr Peterson makes his way through Deni.

For more information about the ‘5 ways to wellbeing’ visit and click on ‘Mental Health Month Deni Five In Five’.

■ Anyone requiring crisis support can contact NSW Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511, Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14, BeyondBlue on 1300 224 636 or Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800.