Belfast woman in mental health marathon from Harare to Victoria Falls, already ahead of schedule

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A Belfast woman aiming to run almost 500 miles (800 km) across Zimbabwe is ahead of schedule after covering more than a marathon each day in the first week of her charity challenge.

Nell English is hoping to complete 17 marathons in 17 days in an arduous solo journey from Harare to Victoria Falls. Apart from the distances, the 27-year-old is having to cope with temperatures in excess of 30C (86F) while being on the look-out for marauding lions or hyenas on dirt roads that run through bush terrain.

The Leeds University graduate grew up in Zimbabwe but as a teenager spent a lot of time in her mother’s homeland of Northern Ireland.

English, who now calls Belfast home, is raising money for the Zimbabwe National Association for Mental Health (ZIMNAMH).

“This run is enormously challenging, and many people, including my mother and father, tried to dissuade me from attempting it,” she said.

“But I am so enjoying it and the cause makes it even more worthwhile.

“The Zimbabwe National Association for Mental Health does such good work all over the country.”

Her father Christopher is a keen sportsman and former coach of Zimbabwean paralympic athletes.

“Mental health in Zimbabwe is woefully underfunded and the problem of mental illness is stigmatised in Zimbabwean communities, as in much of Africa, so it is hard for people to get the treatment they need,” he explained.

“The association depends heavily on volunteers and donations – it has a small and very dedicated staff, who make a little go a long way.”

English’s challenge comes after comedian Eddie Izzard completed an epic 27 marathons in 27 days in neighbouring South Africa in aid of Sports Relief.

Volunteers from the ZIMNAMH charity are driving alongside her offering support throughout the challenge.

For more information on the charity run or to donate visit