Wigan man completes 13 marathons in 13 days to raise awareness for a mental health charity

A Wigan man completed 13 marathons in 13 days to raise awareness and money to help people struggling with mental ill health.

Alex Rigby completed 13 marathons in 13 day
Alex Rigby completed 13 marathons in 13 day

Alex Rigby, 33, who has been in the army since he was 16, started the challenge in Colchester and finished in Land Gate in his hometown alongside his team, raising just over £5,000.

The challenge was done on behalf of the Elliot Project, which was formed after former soldier Elliot Hennell took his own life in 2020.

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Mr Rigby, who has had his own battles with mental health, said: “I was doing a double marathon when one of my friends rang me. It completely floored me. It was the ninth person in the space of three years who had taken their own life in our social, work and friendship group.

Alex Rigby was greeted by the parents of Elliot Hennell at the finish line

“After the funeral I approached Elliot’s family and we decided to put all the questions they had into something good. We crowdfund and provide free courses, which goes towards educating people in mental health.

“Mental Health UK wants one in 10 people trained in the workplace, and we want to align ourselves with that.”

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Mr Rigby says he headed into the challenge with very little preparation but had a strong motivation to keep himself going.

Alex Rigby finished the challenge at Land Gate

“I didn’t train for it, I just threw myself in, which probably wasn’t the best idea. The hardest thing was the weather, it was raining sideways near the canal, it wasn’t nice at all. The cause was the thing that pushed me.

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“The reason I do this is to show my daughters that they shouldn’t set boundaries and can achieve anything they put their minds to. Generating money to give to charity is really important, but speaking to people and relating to them is key to getting me through the days.”

On the last night of the challenge, Mr Rigby’s van was broken into, but he didn’t let any heads drop.

“Our life coach always says turn an obstacle into an opportunity, which was obviously really hard as that happened on the last day.

“I had dragged the team all over the UK, but then the team spent an hour in Marus Bridge and it knocked us off our feet. It was about keeping going and it all just added to the story.

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“To complete something like this you need a decent team behind you and I can’t fault them.”

Mr Rigby currently works at the Military Corrective Training Centre (MCTC), as Military Provost Staff, where he deals with rehabilitation.

He transferred to the role in 2016 because it suited his home life, but it left him with too much time to reflect on the past.

He said: “I was suicidal, I wanted to take my own life. I had done two tours in Afghanistan and was struggling with past memories.

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“I stood beneath some rugby posts crying my eyes out, but I found my way home and my wife sat me down.

“She directed me to my GP, where I received nine months of cognitive behavioural therapy, which basically grounded me and let me know I was human.”

The next target for Mr Rigby is to get the Elliot Project charity status in order to build on their good work.

“We’re not for profit. Nobody takes any money from what goes towards the courses. I know a lot of charities have to cover costs, but it’s not a bridge we have crossed yet.

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“I want to employ our first person and better our numbers. We have a load of challenges planned. I am considering swimming the English Channel.

“My philosophy is, if you don’t raise eyebrows then you’re not going to raise awareness.”

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