Danielle Meier has been regularly running the 21 km trail from Te Puke Quarry Road to TECT Park.
“I absolutely love it,” says Danielle, who was unable to run at all from birth until the age of 21.
Growing up with extremely painful compartment syndrome in both legs, the pressure that built within her muscles meant that there was decreased blood flow, preventing oxygen from reaching nerve and muscle cells.
“It took two surgeries to get it sorted,” she says. “Three weeks after the last surgery in February I went out for the first time in my life and tried to do some running, even though I was unfit. I just kept on running every day as much as I could.
“Running has been such a help for my mental health. I run every day and try to get out twice a week for a 10-20 km bush run.”
She’s now planning to compete in the Auckland Marathon in October to raise funds for the Mental Health Foundation.
“I chose to campaign for mental health as it is very personal to me,” she explains. “My mum has depression and complex PTSD, which I watched her struggle with as I grew up.
“My father had a brain tumour and resulting mental health problems. My grandmother has dementia and my brother struggled with major depression his whole life. He eventually turned to drugs and is now in prison.”
Danielle felt that the common thread was the lack of help and support available.
“Especially for the men of our country,” she adds.
It was after suffering head injuries herself that she realised how much easier it was for her to get help compared to her brother.
“I had a motorcycle accident about four years ago,” says Danielle. “I flew over the car and landed on my head. Six months later I got kicked in the head by a racehorse, and then I was in a car accident and the air bag failed to work so my head went straight into the steering wheel.
“The head injury, combined with depression I had had since a young age, contributed to my own mental health problems.”
She was also recently diagnosed as bipolar.
“I’m quite in touch with my mental health,” she says. “I don’t feel embarrassed about it and I have an amazing, supportive group of friends.
“When I told them I’d been diagnosed they were so great, saying ‘now we’ll know when you spiral down that it’s bipolar, and not panic but help you get through it’.
“I think our country needs a good conversation about mental health to bring about productive change. My brother cried out for help for over 20 years with nothing being done.”
Danielle is hoping to raise $1500 for the Mental Health Foundation of NZ by competing in the ASB Auckland Marathon on October 28.