Everyone needs somewhere to turn, someone to call, when they reach crisis point. Simon Hall, a Rich UK associate, found the lifeline he needed in a suicide prevention program called Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM). Simon’s struggle was real, his rise above it was heroic and his determination to give back and raise awareness for male suicide is inspirational.
Here is Simon’s story.
After coming to terms with some difficult times in my life, which included me hitting my lowest point and actually using the CALM helpline and web services, I decided I would like to try and give something back.
I had entered and ran (badly) the 2017 Great South Run. As a result of outside influences, I hadn’t ran for more than four weeks prior to the event and sadly the wheels came off at about five miles. As I sat at home dejected after the run I found myself entering the 2018 event. At this point I decided to approach CALM and ask if they would like me to raise funds for them along the way, they were delighted that I wanted to help.
As I trained for the 2018 Great South Run I had entered the Thames Valley Half marathon and got talking to a fellow runner there about the Paris Marathon. The seed was sewn. I calculated it would be 20 years since my last marathon, but more importantly two years and two days since my lowest point. This was to be me emerging from the storm.
I had a year to get ready. During that year I met my partner, Cath, and we also entered the Winchester Half Marathon. Now I had a triple: the Winchester Half, The Great South run and, to finish it all off, a little run around the city of Paris, all in the neon orange running vest of CALM.
Cath and I travelled to Paris on the Friday before the marathon. I was quiet, nervous, but also confident I had put the miles in.
The Saturday we went to the expo and got my number pack. This is where it hit home, the doubts. Was I ready? Will my trainers be ok? Will I be too cold or too hot? Cath took it in her stride and calmed me down and convinced me I would be fine.
It was cold, very cold. So much for Paris in spring time, it was minus one-degree Celsius. So, I started with an old t-shirt under my running vest, my cycling arm warmers, gloves and a woolly hat. Eventually, as it got warmer, the clothes were dispatched to Cath at various points and by halfway I was just in my race kit.
The support along the route was fantastic. Even out to the east of Paris going through the Bois de Vincennes, a large wooded park, the roads were lined with people cheering you on. The only quiet area was the Alma Road Tunnel. I found this area quite emotional, it was eerily quiet and dark. I also knew that this was where Princess Diana tragically lost her life. It was also at this point where I started to suffer.
I had been making the most of the water and feed stations along the way but fatigue was starting to set in. The last six to eight miles were hard going. It was nice to be out of the tunnel and back into daylight. I felt happier once I had passed the Eifel Tower and was heading to the Bois de Boulogne. Despite the remoteness of the park there were still crowds of people giving their encouragement. I vowed not to walk.
As I approached the finish area I tried to spot Cath in the crowd, as I knew roughly where she would be standing, but I couldn’t see her (too many people and blurred vision). Once I had crossed the line and stopped my watch at 3:58:56 (under the magic four hours) the emotions took over, relief, pride, sadness at friends I had lost to suicide and being humbled by the people who took the time in the finish area to compliment me on the charity I was running for. I think that was what struck me the most at that moment.
Within a few minutes I had spoken to Cath on the phone and had a message from a friend who was tracking my progress on line. Then it was a case of getting the warm clothes on, some celebratory photos and finding a pub that served Guinness (for the recovery iron of course)!
Why I ran for CALM is difficult for me to answer. Suicide is the biggest killer of males under the age of 45 in the UK. CALM helped me through a tough time, along with some amazing friends, and if there was this same help available a few years ago many of us may not have lost the friends we have lost. I think one of the easiest ways to sum it up is to quote an email my daughter sent to colleagues.
“Many of you will know my dad, Simon, who has just left working in our warehouse, what you might not know is what he is up to this weekend. My dad is going to be completing the third and final leg of his insane challenge. He has completed the Winchester Half Marathon and The Great South Run but this weekend he is topping it all off by running the Paris Marathon whilst raising funds for CALM.
CALM is a male suicide prevention charity who run a free confidential helpline and webchat service available to men in the UK between 5pm and midnight 365 days a year. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45 and if it wasn’t for this charity, my Dad would have been one of those statistics.
I know everyone says ‘this charity is close to my heart’ but without this amazing charity my Dad would not be here today.”
To read that from my daughter filled me with immense pride and really kept me going the last five miles.
I would like to think that people may read my story and realize no matter how low you can feel there is something out there to live for. My escape is exercise, the freedom it gives me, be that running or cycling. There is a great big world out there to be explored, not ignored.
To learn more about CALM and the services they provide, visit https://www.thecalmzone.net