Great Wall marathon helps mother beat depression

By Jessica Tyson

Single mother of two Alaina Chase says running a half-marathon at the Great Wall of China this month helped her overcome major mental health challenges.

Alaina, of Ngāti Kahungunu, was one of around 80 New Zealanders and Australians from the Influence Crew NZ who took part, most of them were Māori or Pasifika.

Chase started training for the event in May last year and says it changed her life.

“It was really hard, it was a struggle. There were times where I wanted to quit but the support from the crew and the trainer, it pushed me along because I went through so many personal life experiences leading up to the event,” says Chase.

“My kids were so proud when they saw their mummy with this big medal and that was the reason why I wanted to do this, to celebrate defeating mental illness and for my children as well”.

Chase completes the half marathon. Source: Alaina Chase

In 2014 Chase suffered from depression, anxiety, and public phobia during her second pregnancy.

“I tried many various therapies like counselling that unfortunately didn’t work and I ended up getting really low on life”. 

Her doctor advised her to “give fitness a go” and after two weeks of doing exercise, she says she went back to normal. 

“Since then, 2016, I’ve just been training and training, and I wanted to do all these marathons to celebrate that I’ve gotten better and defeated that dark place”.

The Influence Crew NZ performed a haka before the event started. Source: Doug Healy

Before the trip to China the team of 80, led by their trainer Doug Healey, kept in touch over Facebook.  After the marathon they left China “as a family,” says Chase.

“Those five short days that I had in China was the best thing that I have ever done in my life.  It was a life-changing experience and I’m definitely going back in 2020 to complete the full marathon”.