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World Mental Health Day – The Portrush Ironman

Andy Farrer, aka The Portrush Ironman, is an inspiration.

Andy has raised thousands of pounds for a variety of amazing charities and last weekend completed his fourth marathon of the year in Chicago, USA.

On each of his marathons, Andy runs with an ironing board and his mascot dog, Gilard, making his marathon finishes even more impressive – but it’s the stories behind this that make Andy’s efforts so special.

Sadly, Andy lost his girlfriend Wilma to suicide in 2016. It was very sudden and as Andy said, his world “came crashing down.”

Andy enjoyed many amazing experiences and memories with his beloved Wilma, she called him her Bubbles (because he was always on the move) and he called her his Giggles (because she was always laughing). Her suicide came as a huge shock.

As Andy explained: “How do you describe the feelings that you have to deal with after a loved one commits suicide? Totally lost. Broken. Empty. You don’t want to go on.

“But I decided I wanted to do something to make her proud. Since losing Wilma, I have tried to make people more aware of suicide.”

This awareness has included the support of an ironing board and Gilard, but where has Gilard come from and why does he run with an ironing board?

Andy explained: “Gilard came into my life many years ago in sad circumstances and I made a promise that he would enjoy the fun I enjoy in life. He was hugging Wilma the day I lost her to suicide.

“Before I lost her, we used to take up extreme ironing as a joke – we’d take an ironing board and iron to fields, beaches, and even climbed mountains with it!

“After I lost Wilma, I decided to do a marathon in her memory and I wanted to carry on with what we enjoyed as a joke – carrying an ironing board and iron.

Media Attention

“When I ran marathons stood on the start line, I realised I was just 1 in 45,000 or whatever it might be. But stood with a full-size ironing board and iron with a cover saying “raising suicide awareness” – it gets people talking about a taboo subject. That’s why I do it.”

Since then, Andy has ran 21 marathons, attempted Guinness World Records and he has become known as “The Portrush Ironman and Gilard”. His efforts have seen him pick up plenty of media attention, on GMTV Ireland and also more recently being interviewed by Gabby Logan on BBC before the London Marathon.

This media attention is vital in raising funds for charities including Samaritans and Victa UK and for Andy, getting in front of more people is what it’s all about.

He explained: “I’m no expert but I can listen and sometimes that’s all that’s needed. My message to those who might be suffering is that the world isn’t a better place without them.

“For me it’s been a tough road but I was so lucky that my Giggles let me and Gilard into her life. While I can’t change depression or necessarily stop suicide, hopefully my efforts and people learning about my story will help someone, anyone, pick up a phone and ask for help. Never be afraid to ask for help.”

Andy recently reached out to Scimitar’s Funky Sportswear brand to become an ambassador. The brand, which produces colourful, loud and proud running and cycling kit, were only too happy to support Andy, recognising his amazing work in raising funds for mental health charities.

He added: “As a long-time fan of Funky Sportswear and the fact I love wearing the clothing, I was keen to become an ambassador. The fact the clothing is friendly to the planet, being made from recycled materials, is amazing and it’s a cause that was so important to both Wilma and myself.”

So what’s next for Andy?

After 21 marathons, he plans to do more. Along with Gilard and his ironing board, Andy is aiming to complete the 6 major marathons – London, Berlin, Chicago, Boston, New York and Tokyo – and says he will run marathons until he’s physically unable to do so.

He added: “I’ll keep going till I physically can’t. I have a saying in life: If you can dream it, you can do it. I always urge people to follow their dreams and not to let anyone get in the way of that.”

Andy created these clip badges which are sold at £5, with all donations going to Samaritans. If you’d like one, please contact Andy by messaging him on Instagram by clicking here.


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