April 13, 2016

JOHANNESBURG (AP) A young Zimbabwean who has set off on a run to raise funds for mental health patients says her friends think she is crazy trying to do 724 kilometers (450 miles) in 17 days.

''I intend to prove them right,'' Nell English told The Associated Press. ''I am crazy about making sure I fundraise a bit of money for the Zimbabwe National Association for Mental Health. Those guys don't have any resources.''

Breathing heavily on the phone, she had just completed the first leg of a journey that will take her from the capital Harare to the resort town of Victoria Falls. She intends to run the equivalent of a marathon every day for 17 days.

The 27-year-old said she initially hoped to raise a modest goal of $1,000 ''because I started planning this late.'' But by the time she set off from Harare, she already had $2,500 in donations.

''I want to raise awareness for mental health now because it's so stigmatized,'' she said. ''There is a lot of support for animals and other causes but mental health doesn't seem to attract a lot of attention, that's why I am doing it.''

Health minister David Parirenyatwa last year said an estimated 1.3 million of Zimbabwe's 13 million people have mental health issues because of the country's depressed economic conditions and drug abuse.

English said she started running and hiking as a young child with her father, Christopher, who combined his interest in sport and health issues by coaching Zimbabwe's paralympic athletes.

''I love this because I have always preferred to run alone, without all the competitiveness,'' she said of her run to Victoria Falls. ''The cause makes it even more worthwhile.''

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