Maltese athlete to run 365km across Sicily to raise mental health awareness
Later this month Maltese athlete Steve Sammut Nurminen will run 365km from one side of the island of Sicily to the other to raise awareness for mental health.
Sponsored by PragmaticPlay, Sammut Nurminen has partnered with mental health NGO Dr Klown which helps hospitalized children and provides distraction and stress relief through fun and laughter.
Contacted by The Malta Independent on Sunday, Sammut Nurminen, a self-proclaimed ‘great mental health advocate’, said he had been following what Dr Klown had been doing for over a year.
“I found out about them online and was curious to see what they were doing. The work they do is fantastic, anyone in hospital goes through a lot, let alone a child, so it was a no-brainer to collaborate with them,” he said.
Sammut Nurminen says he always tries to combine fitness and mental health, whether that’s using his social media platforms to raise awareness or working directly with charities that focus on mental health issues.
“This time around, because I’m taking on the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced, it made sense to use it to try and raise money for mental health,” said Sammut Nurminen.
Sammut Nurminen also ran the length of Malta three times nonstop just last year. That was a total of 110km in 12 hours amid the scorching Malta summer heat. This time, the goal is to travel 365 km through Sicily non-stop in two days, from July 22 to 24. He also plans to do it without sleeping, taking only a few micro-naps of a maximum of one minute each.
Asked about the training process and preparation for such a long distance, Sammut Nurminen said that if he prepares himself physically, by training and running four to five hours a day as well as working on his core, he also prepares himself mentally, through meditation.
“I’m excited to see how my body will react, but I’m more interested in how my mind will react. Getting my body to adapt to all scenarios such as sleep deprivation will be interesting,” said he declared.
Sammut Nurminen said he currently prepares by running 140 km a week and doing other exercises, even if it’s just walking, as long as he spends time on his feet.
He talked about his last challenge, over Christmas time, where he ran a 400 meter track for 400 laps. Sammut Nurminen said the mental aspect is the most difficult because “we can train our body as much as we want, but it’s only capable of so much, but it’s our mind that takes us a bit more. away,” he said. .
He said that during the challenge, his body only hurt halfway through, as he convinced himself there were only a few miles left.
When asked if he thought there was more and more emphasis on mental health these days, Sammut Nurminen replied that there was more and more emphasis, but not enough. .
“I don’t think it’s taken too seriously unfortunately and there’s still a stigma around mental health that’s why people don’t feel comfortable talking about it,” he said. he declares.
“Personally, I started running when the Covid-19 pandemic hit two years ago. Most of us were forced to work from home and I was working, eating and sleeping in the same room,” he said.
He said it was starting to weigh on his mind and he decided to do something about it.
“I was always an active person and played basketball. At first I always hated running, but I decided to go for a run and forced myself out. Once I did a few races, I realized that my productivity was improving and it became a habit. I will not say that I always look forward to running every day, but what motivates me is that after I always feel better,” he said.
Sammut Nurminen was asked what society as a whole can do to improve the mental health situation in Malta, to which he replied that there were two things to continue: raising awareness and promoting physical fitness and stay active.
“The obesity rate in Malta says a lot about our level of activity; we need more awareness about this. If people are more active, that will definitely take care of the mental side of things. It won’t completely solve the problem, but I’m sure the numbers will go down. It can be something as simple as going out for a walk,” he said.
Sammut Nurminen said the aim was to raise €10,000 for Dr Klown. At the time of writing, €1,800 has already been collected. With the funds, Sammut Nurminen plans to help improve the organization’s facilities to create a better and more appropriate atmosphere for children, as well as their support systems, such as parents who often stay overnight.
He said he also plans to hold several virtual events for kids, including a virtual scavenger hunt set up with a camera that acts like a “video game.” He would run around a specific location, looking for presents for the children, while they had access to the camera.
When asked why Sicily was his choice for the race, Sammut Nurminen said the distance was appropriate, as he originally planned to run over 300km. He said that after doing his research and finding that Sicily was a 365km race from side to side, it fit his plan perfectly.
Sammut Nurminen said going further he would like to race across Europe, as well as aiming for a Guinness World Record in Malta.
Will he continue to focus on mental health? Sammut Nurminen said he will always focus on mental health as he wants to help as much as he can.
“When everyone does their small part, it makes a huge difference. Even helping one person is a big deal, so we have to keep doing it,” he said.
You can donate to mental health awareness at: https://gogetfunding.com/365km-run-across-sicily-powered-by-pragmatic-play/ or on Revolut at +356 7902 3975