MENTAL HEALTH

The ripple effect of running: Hayley Pymont’s marathon for mental health

Woman sits on beach smiling


Hayley Pymont is using the hundreds of kilometres she is clocking up on the New South Wales South Coast in preparation for the New York marathon to build a new purpose for herself and help improve her own and the mental health of others.

The 27-year-old Wiradjuri woman, who grew up on Dharawal land is one of the young people selected for the Indigenous Marathon Project [IMP] for 2022, which was founded by Australian champion runner Robert de Castella.

“I applied not really knowing what was actually coming,” she said.

“I think I wanted to find my purpose because I was going down a bit of a black hole and getting a bit stuck again.”

She’s now running between 12 and 18 kilometres a day, averaging around 70 kilometres a week across the roads, parks, and beaches of Shellharbour in preparation for the 42-kilometre event on 6 November through the five boroughs of New York.

“I always said I wanted to do a marathon, I never thought I would be here,” she said.

“Honestly it is pretty crazy still and so surreal.”

The program also asks the participants to undertake study and complete a Certificate IV in Indigenous Leadership and Health Promotion.

A focus on mental health

Ms Pymont is putting her energy into building mental health resilience.

Wiradjuri  woman Hayley Pymont is chasing big dreams and preparing to run in the New York Marathon as part of the IMP in November(ABC News: Billy Cooper)

“I struggled at school with bullying growing up,” she said.

“And unfortunately, sometimes, it is not a nice thing, but sometimes being in that situation of being bullied you put a mechanism in place and become the bullier.”

She said it was an incredibly difficult time where she felt “shut down” and didn’t have support.

“I have been suicidal myself, which hasn’t been easy for my friends and family.

“I have lost someone to suicide as well, so that really plays with you quite a lot.

“It is a massive ripple effect.”

Through the program she is reaching out to community organisations to urge them to provide more support to young people.

“We need organisations out there and services to open their doors for everyone and to let people in regardless of how severe their mental health is,” she said.

She’s also created a wallet sized card with the details of local support services which she hands out at community events.

She is also working towards helping schools provide support to those accused of being the bully

“A lot of the times it is the bullier that has things going on at home, so they are projecting on everyone else and sometimes they get dismissed.

“There needs to be a structure to help everyone involved not just the victim – because they are both victims at the end of the day – which a lot of people overlook.”

Man standing near beach in blue shirt
Wiradjuri man and Dharawal runners and walkers Run Leader, Shane Venables says the IMP is a powerful tool to help build First Nations leadership.(ABC Illawarra: Kelly Fuller)

Along the way she’s had the support of local Dharawal runners and walkers.

Wiradjuri man and Run Leader, Shane Venables said he is proud of what Ms Pymont is achieving.

“She is a very driven person, she’s always been trying to achieve and do the best she can for herself amongst tough circumstances,” he said.

The program is also helping to connect and build Ms Pymont’s connection to culture.

That connection is something Mr Venables is encouraging.

“I think it gives an opportunity to sit with other like-minded First Nations people and learn from each other and build that strength and ownership of who we are,” he said.

“And that belief that we can be leaders, we are the First Nation leaders of this country, and we have a lot to offer.”

A ‘ripple effect’ for positive change

IMP graduate, mentor and run leader Maiquilla Brown said she’s witnessed a significant growth in the Ms Pymont.

Woman sitting at beach smiling.
IMP graduate, mentor and local Dharawal runners and walkers Run leader Maiquilla Brown says she seen incredible growth in Hayley during the training.(ABC Illawarra; Kelly Fuller)

“Just watching her and seeing how invested she is in getting other people involved in running or even just focusing on their mental health is great” Ms Brown said.

“Sharing it throughout the community, we call it the ripple effects of running and you never know who you’re going to touch or who’s going to see your journey and be inspired by it.”

While New York is still a couple of months away, Ms Pymont said she is already feeling the rewards.

“It is more about the inner feeling and how I am feeling as a person and growing and making changes for myself.”

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