Mental health ac­tivist takes part with a real life-saver

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMUNITY NEWS - BY ROSA DO­HERTY

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

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