5 September 2023

Nike Melbourne Marathon Festival: Superintendent Neil Hayes’ Story

As we approach the 2023 Nike Melbourne Marathon Festival on Sunday 15 October, we spoke to Superintendent Neil Hayes, who will be running for first responder mental health and wellbeing.  

Why have you chosen to fundraise for Fortem?  

“I have been responsible for the Northern Territory Police Fire and Emergency Services Wellbeing Project for the past 12 months and during this time I have built a strong relationship with Fortem and have been so impressed with both the broad range of assistance and support they offer and the enthusiasm of the team here in Darwin. The feedback from our members that have accessed Fortem’s services, is that they have been so great and they cannot speak highly enough of them. This is my opportunity to give a little back and use their national footprint to try and raise a little more awareness in this space.” 

Why this specific event?  

“A combination of things really, the timing was great and allowed me time to train for the event as I have never attempted a half marathon before, and the climate down there in Melbourne is appealing to run in coming from the heat in Darwin. Additionally, of course as a footy tragic, you get to finish on the hallowed grounds of the MCG, which is also pretty amazing. The event itself appears to be very well organised so far and I am really looking forward to being a part of what looks to be an awesome atmosphere on race day.” 

What is your link to first responders?  

“I have been a Police Officer for over 23 years and while I have been fortunate to get through relatively unscathed, I have some close friends that had had their struggles with things such as stress, PTSD, etc. Being part of a Tri-Service in the NT, our people from all corners of the agency are exposed to some horrific sights throughout their careers. My project and participation in this event, I hope, will bring some greater awareness and exposure to this and even if it encourages one person to speak up when they need help or teach someone to ask others if they are traveling ok, I think it will all be worthwhile.” 

How does running help your mental health?  

“For me, exercise has always been a part of my life and I think when I was younger I was a little oblivious to the benefits to not only our health but our mental health. As life gets busy, I have found that maintaining that healthy balance has always allowed me to keep going or refresh when things have been a little tough. So whether it is running, surfing, going to the gym, just moving and getting the blood flowing can have an amazing impact on your mental health.” 

Click here to get involved in fundraising or participating in this event.