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Leeds Trinity alumna tackles Honolulu Marathon in latest mental health mission

Posted on 28 November 2019

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A Leeds Trinity alumna is getting ready to face her next physical challenge as part of a two-year initiative to raise money for charity and look after her own mental health in the process.

Gill Barker will take on the Honolulu Marathon in Oahu, Hawaii, which marks Challenge number 31 in her 35 Before 35 challenge series. Gill is taking part in 35 mental and physical challenges before her 35th birthday in March 2020, to raise awareness of mental health and fundraise for Leeds Mind and Yorkshire Cancer Research. The challenges have also improved Gill’s own mental health, which she admits to previously neglecting.

Gill will be running the marathon with her twin sister Helen, three years after previously attempting it together in 2016. Their first attempt saw them pull out at 21 miles after suffering from severe heat exhaustion, resulting in the twins getting their first and only ever ‘Did Not Finish’.

Gill said: “After a lot of saving, I can’t wait to go back to Hawaii, I absolutely love it out there and we definitely have unfinished business. Although we’ll be taking part in a physical challenge, this one is definitely going to be more mentally testing for me after last time. It’s also probably going to be our last marathon (having already run around 20 marathons between us and two Ultras each) so we’re hoping for a great marathon send off!”

In the last year, Gill has completed 30 out of 35 challenges and has raised almost £3,000 for charity through many physical activities such as: the 127-mile Leeds Liverpool canal run; cycling up Mont Ventoux; and climbing Mount Snowdon. She has also overcome several mental challenges which include: public speaking on BBC Radio Leeds; overcoming her fear of heights at Go Ape; and completing an abseil at How Stean Gorge.  

Gill studied Marketing at Leeds Trinity, graduating in 2006. She now works at the University as a Senior Marketing Officer and has carried out all the challenges, which are all self-funded, whilst working full-time.

Brett Arnall, Alumni Relations Officer at Leeds Trinity University, said: “We are so proud of Gill and everything she has achieved in the last two years through these challenges. Not only has she raised money for two very worthy causes, but she has raised awareness of mental health which serves as an important reminder for us to check in on each other. 35 Before 35 is a testament to the inspiring and determined individual she is.”

Gill and Helen will take part in the Honolulu Marathon on Sunday 8 December. Her final challenge will take place on Saturday 14 March 2020, tying in with her 35th birthday and the details of which she is keeping firmly hidden for the meantime.  

To find out more about 35 Before 35, click here. ​

If you would like to donate to Gill’s mission, please visit her fundraising page here.