Meet Change Maker Matt Fenn - With a goal of running over 1,000km for mental health, for Matt, running is a vehicle for bringing about change.

What started as an idea and a way to raise awareness for mental health, has become a way of life for Change Maker, Matt Fenn.

Matt has a ‘track record’ for some ambitious endurance challenges and this December is set to be his biggest yet. With a goal of running over 1,000km for mental health, for Matt, running is a vehicle for bringing about change and shedding light on something that affects many kiwis - we totally get behind this at Barkers.


For those in our community who are new to your journey, take us back to how it all started and why 1,000km this year?

I started off this adventure taking on a 24 hour run wearing a 24kg weighted vest over a year ago. After I finished I wanted to do more, go bigger, and have a greater impact in the mental health space.

Last year I decided to take on a 654km continuous run around Auckland Domain, one km for each life lost to suicide in Aotearoa last year. This time, I’m going to run until we’ve reach 1 million comments on a social post to encourage kiwi’s to speak up and join the conversation around mental health. The world record for the longest single stage run ever completed is 1036.4km, I have a goal to complete this distance and more.

 Change Maker Matt Fenn - Barkers

This is your second year in a row running to raise awareness for mental health, tell us what’s different to last year’s run (and those in-between) and has your training changed?

I’ve learnt a lot, that’s for sure. It’s all come through trial and error, the biggest change I’ve learnt is to ride the waves of highs and lows that come with pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.

Climbing the height of Everest fastest than anyone ever, running up and down Baldwin street in Dunedin and falling short of my goal really changed my perspective from trying to be good enough to complete the challenge to instead becoming the best version of myself.


You’ve often said it’s not about running, but more running is a vehicle for bringing about change, can you talk us through this?

For me it’s all about having a positive impact and that’s possible in so many different ways for everyone. My goal goes beyond running, personally, it’s all about creating positive change and utilising big physical feats to grab people’s attention and hope they take notice of the real reason behind it. Big things for even bigger reasons.


As someone who is always on the go, can you tell us how you look after your mental health and how you prioritise wellness?

I think it’s all about what works well for you and there’s no one size fits all. A few specific things I like to do - sing James Blunt in the car and let out every human emotion in the space of 3 minutes, write notes about how I’m feeling in my phone, throw medicine balls around and just call or spend time with the people I care about without a reason – spending open ended time with someone can have a very different impact to a quick planned coffee catch up etc. in my opinion, and I really value that open ended time.


We agree that having conversations around mental health is incredibly important, have you found those around you are more willing to chat?

I think there’s growing culture that encourages conversation around mental health, but we still have a long way to go. What’s incredible to see is that people are willing to stand up and push for change, which impacts huge numbers just by being vulnerable and open about their experiences. I think vulnerability is a super power we all possess, you just have to learn to use.


The unfortunate and inevitable question everyone is asking these days, how has Covid-19 affected your mental health and what tools have you been using when you do have an off day?

I really struggled early on through the uncertainty. I tried to find a way to give myself a goal and something to work towards, and after a lot of swings and misses eventually found that purpose which led to some routine and consistency. That could be a huge goal or something really simple for different people; but take control of what you can, that can build familiarity in uncertain times. 


Switching gears, do you have any advice for those wanting to get into endurance training?

Get out there and start. I often say that in running an ultra the hardest part is getting out of the chair after a pit stop. It’s the same with starting. Deciding to lace ‘em up and get out there for the first time in a while, or ever, is always going to be the hardest run. From there it only gets easier with every step!