Bossing it Down Under: Burnley man in Australia raises £4,000 for mental health charity with epic 24-hour challenge
A Burnley-born man living in Australia has raised over £4,000 for a mental health charity after completing a mammoth 24-hour physical challenge which saw him run a marathon, complete 96 rounds on a punchbag, and climb 7,200 stairs on a stepper.
Henry Watkins, who moved to Shellharbour 60 miles down the coast from Sydney earlier this year in order to work on an engineering scholarship, started the gruelling challenge at 6am at Anytime Fitness Shellharbour, eventually finishing the following morning having raised AU$7,130 for the Top Blokes Foundation, a mental health charity in New South Wales.
"I was confident going into the challenge as I’d promised so many people I would complete it and I gave myself no other choice than to come out of the other end successful," said Henry, who himself grappled with mental health issues when he was about 17. "If I say I’m going to do something, chances are I’ll do it, especially for a cause such as the one I’d set out to help.
"The challenge went really well and I had very kind friends with me for nearly the full 24-hour period," added Henry, 24. "I’m very grateful to everyone who showed up, especially those between 10pm and 6am."
Having tailored his fitness routine and nutrition with some cross-continental help from Burnley-based kick-boxer Ben Lupton ahead of the challenge, Henry said: "The treadmill was pretty tough on my legs but I think that was more the fact that I was doing the same continuous motion for eight hours.
"The punchbag wasn’t too difficult; it was by far the easiest of the three," he added, having completed a nine-hour punchbag challenge at Lifestyle Fitness in Burnley to raise £1,100 for Pendleside Hospice in memory of his late grandfather in 2017. "I managed to knock the punchbag off the carabiner by snapping it completely so at least nobody can say I wasn’t punching hard enough!
"The stepper was a lot tougher but I think this was mainly down to the fact that I’d done 16 hours' exercise by that time," continued Henry, a former jujitsu fighter who claimed a bronze medal in Mixed Adult Fighting at the 2015 British Championships. "I definitely remember hitting a wall at 2:30am."
Despite his incredible physical efforts, which have already inspired a local charity youth ambassadors to undertake a 12 hour 'swimathon', Henry says that he is extremely self-critical and couldn't help think that an eight-hour marathon was 'pretty terrible' despite it being combined with 16 hours of other exercise.
"I’m working on taking pride in my achievement and celebrating what I’ve done," he explained, also saying he was massively proud to have inspired others to follow his fundraising lead. "If I can help improve one young lad's mental health, then it’s been well worth it and I’ll be proud to have helped someone who's struggling.
"Young lads need to know it’s not weak to speak up, it's necessary," he added. "Reach out and speak to someone or, if you’re struggling with speaking, do what I did and pick up a hobby: go to the gym, start boxing, go running; do something because it really does help. I hope this inspires people to come out of the lockdown with something to aim towards."