FORMER Olympic sailor Ali Young says it’s “massively important to talk up” about mental health issues as she gets set to tackle a monumental fundraiser for Samaritans today.

Starting at 10am, Ali will attempt to ride 24 laps of Portland in 24 hours in order to raise money for the charity.

Explaining her motivations behind the challenge, the three-time Olympian says she picked the ‘24’ element ‘because the Samaritans are there 24 hours a day’.

She said: “I’ve had mental health challenges myself in the past and made the choice to still be here. I’ve contacted the Samaritans in the past and wanted to give something back to them.”

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The challenge itself will see 276 miles covered - about the same distance from Portland to Bolton - with a total elevation hitting 8,736m: just over 100m less than Mount Everest. Previously the Portland resident has tackled a few 100 mile bike rides but today’s challenge is by far and away her biggest yet.

“The nerves are there”, Ali said. “I’m a bit apprehensive but it’s going to be an interesting experience: it’s definitely a challenge but I’ll give it my all.”

Throughout the cycle, Ali will tackle three steep inclines with every lap with only minor breaks when nature calls. Having competed at the London, Rio and Tokyo Olympics, the 34-year-old said this was her first real opportunity to tackle such a fundraiser and remarked it was “a very different challenge” to that of the Olympics.

She said: “I think the biggest challenge will just be getting the basics right: keeping well fuelled, dealing with the repetitive nature of being on a bike for 24 hours and making sure not to get mentally fatigued. There’ll be a host of emotions, I’m sure, when you’re hitting your stride but there’ll be rough patches and it’s just about getting through them.”

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The fundraiser takes place on the first day of Mental Health Awareness Week and Ali said the 24 hour cycle was as much about raising awareness as it was money.

“It’s so important that people speak up: if I had spoken out earlier then my situation would have been completely different, I think. Mental Health Awareness Week is huge and it’s all about helping people feel more open to talk - about their own issues but also about checking in with their friends.”

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