Mental health activist takes part with a real life-saver
FOR MENTAL health campaigner Jonny Benjamin, running past the spot where he almost took his own life in 2008 was moving almost beyond words.
Mr Benjamin ran alongside Neil Laybourn —the stranger who talked him out of jumping from Waterloo Bridge — the pair finishing in five hours 28 minutes.
The former JFS pupil, who was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, recalled that “nine years ago, things were very different. It was really emotional, and unlike anything else I’ve experienced, to be passing Waterloo Bridge together again. I just kept thinking: ‘Oh my goodness, I can’t believe it.’
“The journey we’ve been on since that day has been extraordinary.”
Mr Benjamin said he and Mr Laybourn, supporting mental health charity Heads Together, had not planned to run the distance together.
“It just happened. By the 10th mile we were still side by side and it felt great. And this time we were there to encourage each other. We both had moments where we hit a wall but we kept each other going.”
Mr Laybourn added: “I got a cramp in my calf at the 17 mile mark. I said to Jonny he should carry on without me but he waited with me while I stretched it out. It really kept me going to have him to run with.
“I’ve become an honorary Jew through knowing Jonny. I go to all the [charity] dinners with him and speak at all the events. It just goes to show you don’t know what life has in store for you.”
The pair raised more than £35,000 between them.
Earlier this month, Mr Benjamin — an ambassador for Jewish mental health charity Jami —received his MBE from Prince William. At the marathon, he and Mr Laybourn met the Duchess of Cambridge.
Neil Laybourn and Jonny Benjamin met the Duchess of Cambridge on marathon day