'It's okay to not be okay' - Sharon's challenge.

Mental health fundraiser Sharon Smalls prepares for her GEAR 10K on Sunday 5th May.

Avid runner Sharon Smalls will line up in the Asda Foundation GEAR 10K to raise funds to combat an illness she says is too often misunderstood and under-funded.

Sharon, who will be running for West Norfolk Mind, said: “Mental health is so misunderstood and under- funded for many reasons. There are so many people of all ages that are too scared or too ashamed to talk about. It's an illness that can't be seen but is so well hidden by its victims, it's easy to put on a smile rather than explain how rubbish you feel. Everybody hurts sometimes – it’s ok not to be ok.”

Part of Sharon’s passion is fuelled by the fact that a close family member almost lost their life to mental illness.

She said: “I've heard first-hand how this person felt and how it affected them. Having a strong loving family around them is so important but they need professional help too.”

Her own well-being is helped by her love of running.

“I love running and I go out and run once or twice a week, in all weather. I mainly run alone. It's my time and it's my therapy. I'm a strong believer in exercise and its benefits for wellbeing. Whenever I go out for a run I come home refreshed and refocused. It helps me to put all my troubles aside, it's definitely runners high.”

Sharon, a member of West Norfolk Athletics Club, has missed only one GEAR 10K in King’s Lynn since 2014.

She said: “I usually run the GEAR with my husband, although he isn't an avid runner like me. Sadly he's injured this year and can't join me. So I need an extra boost this year as it's my first year running it without him. I'm running for our charity for both of us now, so I will run with extra conviction to make him proud.”

Sharon’s fundraising can be supported at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/sharon-smalls3


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