Harry, William and Kate shun marathon limelight to allow focus on mental awareness

Rhiannon Mills, Royal Correspondent

Prince Harry has told Sky News he considered running this year's London Marathon but wanted the focus to be on the runners raising awareness of mental health. 

Heads Together, the campaign launched by Harry and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, is the main charity partner for this year's London Marathon.

The three of them cheered on the thousands pounding the pavements through the capital during what they hoped would be the "mental health marathon".

Asked if any of them had considered taking on the 26.2 mile challenge, Prince Harry said: "Yes I think all three of us were tempted, but it was probably safer and easier for us not to and to try and do our best to lead the campaign and let the focus be on the Heads Together runners which was 200 and is now 700."

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This week the three royals have ramped up the awareness campaign, sharing their own personal experiences, in an attempt to break down the stigma around mental illness and encourage people to talk with the hashtag #oktosay.

While many of the 39,000 runners were doing the marathon for other causes and charities, they were all given Heads Together branded headbands to wear.

Paul Scates and his father Norman ran for Heads Together and the charity Young Minds. When Paul was 16, while experiencing psychosis and paranoia, he attempted to take his own life and broke his back.

Talking before the marathon, Paul said: "For me, the fact that I broke my back when I was 16, and that running has saved my life basically - the exhilaration, with a bit of anxiety, the exhilaration I'm going to feel is massive."

It's anticipated the marathon will raise millions for mental health charities.

Figures seen by Sky News show that many of the eight charity partners for Heads Together, have already seen a huge increase in demand for their services.

Sarah Brennan, chief executive of Young Minds, said it has also boosted their lobbying power as charities push for more government funding.

She said: "When there is public awareness and public demand for improving the services, that's when politicians stand up and listen and that's when funders stand up and listen and realise they're being closely watched and that's how we can make things continue to improve and funding to carry on being there because it's always under threat."

This year the organisers of the marathon also want to celebrate the range of reasons why people decide to take part in the event and are asking people to use the hashtag #reasontorun on social media.

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