Friends target rowing world record to raise awareness of mental health challenge

Friends target rowing world record to raise awareness of mental health challenge
The trio are to use one indoor rowing machine to take on the challenge (Isaac Kenyon/PA)

Three friends hope to achieve a rowing world record to symbolically highlight how battling with your mental health can leave you “trapped”, but getting support from others can help you through it.

British adventurer and endurance athlete Isaac Kenyon, PHD student Graham Moore and IT engineer Alex Pierrot aim to complete the 30-hour row, which begins on November 24, in one-hour rotations, using a single indoor rowing machine.

They aim to break the current longest continual lightweight, indoor, rowing world record for a small male-only team aged 20-29, which currently stands at 26 hours.

Mr Kenyon, 29, has achieved his fair share of world records – including for the longest continual row on an indoor rowing machine for 83 hours solo – but said he wanted the focus of this challenge to be on raising mental health awareness.

Group standing togetherThe three friends are raising money for Movember (Isaac Kenyon/PA)

Speaking ahead of the challenge, Mr Kenyon, who is based in Devon, told the PA news agency: “I lost a few close friends to suicide when I was at university and I’ve also dealt with anxiety and panic disorders.

“Mental health has been a constant presence in mine (and Mr Moore and Mr Pierrot’s) lives and one thing that has brought us all together is that we’ve realised that in the society that we’re in, mental health challenges are still seen as a weakness in the workplace and still seen as a stigma and we envision a world where talking about this is as common as the common cold.

“One of the reasons we chose to do this particular challenge was from a symbolism perspective.

“We’re in this rowing scenario where we’re kind of trapped for 30 hours doing this really mentally taxing task, which is kind of like all the mental struggles that you would have, from a mental health perspective and we’ve taken it into a sporting perspective.”

He added that despite the row expected to be challenging, the trio are doing it together, which will highlight the importance of “talking through your struggles” and having support from others in order to get through them.

Mr Moore told PA that when he was 16 and a friend confided in him that he contemplated suicide, it “really drove home” the need to get help if you are struggling with your mental health.

Group standing togetherThe rowing team, left to right, Alex Pierrot, Isaac Kenyon and Graham Moore (Isaac Kenyon/PA)

The 26-year-old who is based in London added: “I struggled a lot with depression through my teens and it all came to a head in university and I pushed myself to be someone that I really wasn’t and the only reason that I actually sought help in the end was because friends of mine pushed me to do so.

“I ended up getting the emergency NHS therapy, which you have to be at a certain level of self endangerment to get, in 2018.”

Mr Pierrot told PA he dealt with depression from 2016 to 2019.

“I would end every term completely burnt out and went through different illnesses like tonsilitis and insomnia, which wiped out two to three weeks of my summer holidays,” the 28-year-old who is based in London said.

“Since recovering in mid-2019, I have been doing a lot more sporting challenges and a big part of them involves being open about my mental health struggles and getting other men to open up more.”

The group have a WhatsApp group where they post their workouts and learn from each other.

Group standing togetherThe group want to raise mental health awareness (Isaac Kenyon/PA)

They collectively agreed that the trickiest aspect will likely be rowing during the night, when “your mind is being played with the most”.

However, they will have each other, podcasts and a variety of snacks including cereal bars and vegetables to fuel them across the finish line, and will be cheered on by their partners, family members and colleagues.

Mr Moore said he hopes the rowing challenge will engage the younger generation, in particular.

He said: “I think there is a generational thing where the younger generation are more open to talking about mental health, but I also think we don’t quite know the impacts of the changing world that we live in and recent events like the pandemic.

“I see this challenge we’re doing as just one very small part of something a lot bigger, which is this bigger conversation (about mental health).”

The world record attempt will take place from 7am on November 24 to 1pm on November 25, at Rowbots City fitness studio, in east London.

Money raised will go to Movember, and the fundraising link can be accessed here:

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