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Miles for Minds: David Clark’s Journey to Boost Head Up Charity

David Clark is on a mission to support Head Up Charity, a UK Armed Forces organisation dedicated to promoting mental health awareness and resilience among serving and former military personnel. Through his extraordinary endurance challenges, from conquering Scotland’s Coast to Coast run to preparing for the Montane Winter Spine Challenger South, David aims to raise crucial funds and awareness.

David’s journey of endurance and philanthropy began several years ago, inspired by a deep-seated desire to challenge himself physically and make a difference in the lives of others. His latest endeavour, the Montane Winter Spine Challenger South, is a testament to this unwavering commitment. This 108-mile race, set in the heart of winter, is not just a physical test but a rallying call for support to raise £3,200 for Head Up Charity—a cause that has captured David’s heart and determination.

David, along with his two best friends, has been participating in challenging events annually since 2014. “We have done this since 2014, for some reason we pick harder events as the years have gone by, even though we’re not getting any younger,” David reflects. Last year, he tackled the formidable Coast to Coast run across Scotland, a 105-mile endurance race that tested him in ways he had never imagined. “Last year’s event was tough. It was my first race in Scotland, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Seriously aggressive terrain but so beautiful, and of course, very wet.”

The run almost didn’t happen due to a fractured ankle just six weeks before the event. Despite advice to postpone, David was resolute. “I had raised too much money to let everyone down,” he says. With intensive physiotherapy from his trusted physio, Martin Ardolino, and sheer determination, David made it to the start line. “It took a lot of physio pre-race with Martin and a huge amount of TLC during the race. But knowing my wife and 2 children were at the finish line gave me all the motivation I needed. I couldn’t let them down.”

The success of last year’s fundraising efforts, where David raised over £2,000, fuelled his desire to continue supporting Head Up Charity. “The feeling I got when I crossed the finish line and saw our JustGiving page surpass £2,000 was indescribable,” he recalls. This year, David set his sights on an even more demanding challenge. “I knew if people were to donate again, my next event would have to be even more insane and demanding. But knowing I’m making a difference, no matter how small, is very rewarding.”

Head Up Charity’s mission resonates deeply with David. Established by four veterans, the charity aims to support serving and former Forces personnel in building a positive mindset and increasing mental resilience. “The passion the founders have for our serving and ex-serving soldiers is something I’ve not seen from other charities,” David explains. The charity’s unique approach, providing a non-militarised retreat for mental health support, sets it apart. “The point of the retreat is to completely distance yourself from the military and have an environment where there is no judgment,” he adds.

Training for the Winter Spine race is a multifaceted journey. David’s job provides the flexibility to train extensively without compromising family time. His preparation involves a combination of physical and mental training. “I call the build-up ‘The Adventure’. There’s the goal, which is your target, and then the adventure, which is 95% of it all,” he says. His regimen includes strength training, long runs, meditation, and cold exposure techniques inspired by Wim Hof. “I’m training hard, mentally and physically, being relentless with my short-term goals, and making sure I understand my game plan.”

David’s partnership with Martin Ardolino has been pivotal. Martin is the owner of The Right Angle, a sports therapy and health centre in Andover, “Martin helped me prep for a military course back in 2020. He’s helped me through arduous military courses and two ultra mountain marathons,” David says. Their collaboration extends beyond physical training to fundraising efforts. “We spent a lot of our time last year fundraising together, raising £2,500. He has been an absolute legend. I cannot recommend him highly enough.”

The impact of Head Up Charity on the lives of military personnel is profound. “In 2023, Head Up were able to reach over three thousand armed forces personnel, teaching and encouraging positive mindset methods,” David notes. The charity’s reach is expanding, now aiding homeless veterans and those in prison. “Head Up are growing fast and helping more people than ever. They currently have eighty-seven people on their books.”

Looking ahead to the Montane Winter Spine Challenger South 2025, David is optimistic about meeting their £3,200 fundraising goal. He plans to document his training and fundraising adventures on his blog, showcasing the challenges and triumphs of his journey. “People can see me in all weather conditions running around like a lunatic, but more interestingly, they can see the fun Martin and I will have travelling around the country fundraising,” he says.

David emphasises that support for Head Up Charity extends beyond financial contributions. “Our aim isn’t just about asking for donations. It’s also about getting the Head Up name out there, especially in Andover, with such a large military community,” he explains. He urges those who know veterans struggling with mental health to reach out. “If you have served in any branch of our armed services, including the reserves, and are struggling with mental health, please do not suffer in silence.”

Head Up Charity is a new UK Armed Forces charity established by veterans, dedicated to promoting mental health awareness and helping Forces personnel build a positive mindset and improve their mental resilience. The charity is on a mission to raise enough funds to develop a holistic and positive seven-day retreat in 2024.

This retreat will cater to all who have served and are still serving in any branch of the UK military, including reservists, and will provide a safe haven to deal with mental health difficulties. The retreat will be a non-militarised, luxury, eco-friendly location with comfortable accommodation and numerous restorative facilities. This initiative complements the charity’s existing services, which include one-to-one help, wellness days, mini retreats, and wellness presentations.

David’s dedication to Head Up Charity and his tireless efforts to support veterans are truly commendable. His long-term goal is clear: “Until I cannot, I won’t stop raising money for these types of charities. They can only do what they do if people who care act; they can only help if people go out and fundraise. Our veterans are getting left behind, so they need to rely on the generosity of the British public.”

As he prepares for his next great challenge, David’s spirit and determination shine through, inspiring others to join him in supporting Head Up Charity and making a tangible difference in the lives of those who have served our country.