This week, Adrian Ball will be taking on a challenge many have called him ‘wild ‘for.

Flying out to Tanzania in Africa, Adrian will be spending five days running a minimum of a marathon a day – with one day that will see him clock up a distance of 67km. Not to mention, the route will take him part way up Mount Kilimanjaro – the world’s largest free-standing mountain – and he is doing it all in the name of PAPYRUS and Alzheimer’s Society.

Rewind back just five years ago and Adrian didn’t even own a pair of running shoes. In fact, he would admit he wasn’t very fit “at all”, and his wellbeing often came last on his list of priorities.

Throughout his life, Adrian has faced a number of challenges, ranging from grief, personal illness, mental health struggles, and most notably to many who support PAPYRUS, suicide. 21 years ago, when Adrian was in his late 20s, his family life was thrust into a world they could never have imagined when his dad lost his life to suicide. This was a tragedy that Adrian says nobody could have foreseen and turned his and his families world upside down.

“It was 2002 when dad died,” Adrian shares. “It was horrific. We just didn’t see it coming.

“He went out to work one day and that was the last we’d see of him. At the time, the word had so much stigma – suicide – and I had to be the one to tell his family and other people, it was just a hideous time.

“The worst thing was people just don’t know what to say to you, and they still don’t know what to say to you. There was this air of complete disbelief around us that we as a family were in that situation.”

Prior to his dad’s death, Adrian says while his family dynamic was supportive and open, the topic of suicide had never been mentioned – mostly because they didn’t see it as something that would enter their lives.

Following his dad’s death, Adrian and his family had a hard time overcoming the grief process. With stories featuring front page in local newspapers and a lack of understanding from those around them, the pain of their loss was unfathomable, as well as wildly misunderstood. Adrian notes this was during a time where “suicide wasn’t something anyone spoke about”, particularly not among older men. From this experience, Adrian recognised the stigma surrounding suicide and promised to ensure that going forward in his own life conversations around suicide and wellbeing would be open and prioritised, starting with his first daughter who was born just three weeks after losing his dad.

“There’s an importance of being open and frank when talking about suicide. It’s always been so important to talk to my girls about it, we’ve had lots of conversations about the impact of somebody taking their life, what it means and the importance of searching for other ways for help. We’ve discussed how important it is to talk and reach out for support when we’re struggling.

“The one thing that sticks with me is the shame associated with it. When my dad died, it was very difficult for other people to talk to us about it, so it’s so important that we break down that stigma that it is something that happens, it is a massive issue, and not talking about it isn’t the solution.”

A few years went by, and Adrian continued to work through the grief that came with losing his parent so unexpectedly. But in 2007, Adrian was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and his family was once again thrown into turmoil when he was given a 50/50 chance of surviving. It felt like another impossible hurdle was thrown his way; another test to challenge him. Fortunately, after many months of life-saving treatment, Adrian recovered and continues to live free of cancer today.

Between recovery and 2020, battles and challenges continued to present themselves in Adrian’s life. This ranged from personal family situations, work-related burnout having always strived for success, anxiety that Adrian had struggled with as far back as being a young boy, as well as further encounters of suicidal ideation close to him. This all came to a head when he lost his mum back in 2020.

“My mum was a very formidable lady; absolutely amazing, and my biggest supporter. She was always willing me on, always there for me 115%. When I lost her it was hard, one of the hardest things in my life.”

Acknowledging he was in need of an outlet for his grief and anxiety, Adrian was introduced to long-distance running by a friend – reluctantly he notes – but it wasn’t long before that became his source of release.

“I got to a point in my life where I had put on weight because of the pressures I was feeling, and I realised I wasn’t looking after myself. I wasn’t looking after my body after doctors had saved my life and I was treating my body in a way that wasn’t helping myself for the long-term if I want to be here for my family. I thought enough is enough, I have to take control of this and change it.

“I decided to start Couch to 5k, once I completed that I’d managed to get up to doing 10kms. About a year into running, I’d ran a couple of 10kms at this point but nothing more, my friend Sam comes to me and tells me about this ultramarathon she is doing in Jordan and asked if I’d want to do it. I obviously laughed at her. I could never do that! But the seed was planted that day. I went home, googled it, watched videos on it. I’d never done anything like that or of that distance.

“A couple of days later Sam asked me again. Later that day it was booked.”

Since tying up his first pair of running shoes just a few years ago, Adrian’s commitment to raising awareness for causes close to his heart has taken him across the world and enrolled onto challenges many of us would never even dream of. From 50km trail runs and 100km coast events, to spending five days running 250km across the deserts of Jordan. Adrian has found a happiness and focus in running that has changed his life, and now uses it to shine light on causes that have touched his life.

This week, Adrian will leave the comfort of his home and head out to Tanzania where he will complete his second five-day ultramarathon in aid of PAPYRUS and Alzheimer’s Society. Already he has raised over £1,000 in support of PAPYRUS, as well as dedicated his social media channels to educate people on the importance of suicide prevention.

“Everyone around me thinks I’ve lost the plot and I’m having a midlife crisis. But running has given me a real focus and makes me feel healthier and less anxious. I know my mum definitely would be calling, laughing and asking me whatever was I thinking of! But no run and no distance are as tough as the pain of losing someone to suicide. The runs are hard, they’re mentally challenging, but I’ve overcome worse, and I want to use them as opportunities to make people think.”

“I know the impact suicide has on families. That is a pain that stays with us forever and shapes us. It is an unmeasurable pain. Suicide and grief are the worst times in people’s lives, they are the times when people need support, but they don’t always know where to get it, so I think for me, charities like PAPYRUS and other causes I support are so important to make people aware of.

“As humans, sometimes we have times where all we need is someone to listen or somebody to tell us something that can help us realise we’re not the only person going through this and there are solutions. We need to talk about PAPYRUS and make sure people know you’re there; you’re there for the times when people need that support so anything I can do to help do that feels like a really good thing to do.”

If you want to support Adrian as he sets off on his challenge, visit here.

If you’re experiencing thoughts of suicide and need a safe non-judgmental space to talk. PAPYRUS is here for you. Call HOPELINE247 for free, confidential advice and support on 0800 068 4141, text 88247 or email pat@papyrus-uk.org from 9am to midnight every day of the year.
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