Meet the NI students who are staying sober and running 1,000km over 66 days for charity

They’re raising funds and awareness for mens mental health

With the New Year, come the same old tedious New Years resolutions. Be that quitting smoking, working out more or going to the gym ten times per week.

However, entering the new year in lockdown as NI continues in the battle against coronavirus, we may have a bit more of an excuse to concentrate on our resolutions or new lockdown habits.

Five students from the Derry/Antrim coast have launched the 66 days later campaign. The aim of their project is to stay sober for 66 days from January 1st 2021 through to the 8th March 2021.

Over the 66 days of sobriety, the students are aiming to run a collective of 1,000km, raising crucial funds for mental health initiatives.

Behind the challenge was Adam Stewart who studies Information Systems, Luke McIlreavy who studies Business Information Systems, Ross Canning who studies Business Management, Andrew McLean who studies Computer Forensics and Lewis Gardner.

Speaking to The Belfast Tab was Luke, who said: “During the first lockdown, we all started running to improve our overall fitness and mental health. In the past, each of us has had to deal with mental health issues […], so this year we really wanted to make a difference – more so than ever during these times”.

The third year Ulster University student said, “We bounced across a few ideas in the group chat, and Adam came up with the “66 Days Later” challenge and we all agreed. We’re staying sober for 66 days (from Jan 1st 2021) and running 1,000k, collectively, to raise mental health awareness and to help mitigate the stigma from coming forward. [This] averages a run of 25k a week each”.

So far the students have collectively covered 210km/130 miles, raising nearly £1,000 within the first week for their chosen charity, NI based mental health charity, The Olive Branch.

“We’re keeping track of our progress using Strava, as well as regularly posting on social media with updates – the support from everyone has been amazing. We plan to publish all of our fitness data at the end”. 

Donations to the 66 days later challenge can be found here: 

If you or someone you know has been affected by this story, please speak to someone or contact Samaritans on 116 123 at any time. You can also contact Anxiety UK on 03444 775 774, Mind on 0300 123 3393, and Calm (Campaign against living miserably, for men aged 15 to 35) on 0800 58 58 58.

You matter.