By PHILIP CHANDLER
A friend’s suspected suicide has prompted a Queenstown ultrarunner and a running mate to undertake a staggering 500 kilometre run to raise awareness and funds for mental health.
Starting October 24, Kerryn Bell and Ben Fraser, from Oamaru, will run from Christchurch to Queenstown over six days, stopping along the way to push their message.
Frustrated he couldn’t compete in the upcoming Naseby ultramarathon after its cancellation due to Covid-19 restrictions, Fraser had suggested they do a charity run from Haast to Oamaru, which is about 360km.
They decided to change course, however, when they realised they’d touch a lot more people between Christchurch and Queenstown.
‘‘It’s going to be a massive mental and physical challenge so we’re going to have to help each other,’’ Bell says.
She’s had a long successful history of ultrarunning, whereas Fraser, whom she coaches, only started two years ago.
On the other hand, Bell’s only started running again after tearing her meniscus last November.
‘‘It’s going to hurt, absolutely, but I’m stubborn so I’ve got no doubt we’ll get to the finish line.’’
She estimates they’ll be on their feet 12 to 15 hours a day — ‘‘there’s probably not going to be a lot of sleep’’.
They’ll carry spot trackers so people along the course can follow their progress and meet them for a chat or even run alongside them.
They’ll also receive invaluable help from a support crew of four in a campervan.
‘‘Crew will go ahead and set up in each township before we get there, telling people we’re coming and trying to get donations.’’
The runners set up a fundraising page last Sunday — ‘Kerryn and Ben run 500km’ on give.everydayhero.com — for the Lifeline Foundation Charitable Trust and raised $2000-plus in the first two days alone.
‘‘We’d love to get $20,000,’’ Bell says.
However, their biggest aim, especially during the run, is to get people talking about mental health.
‘‘It’s about not being afraid to say, ‘I’m struggling, I need help’, so no other family has to go through what my friend’s family is going through.’’
To donate, click here.
● Need to Talk? 1737, free 24/7 phone and text number
● Healthline: 0800 611 116
● Lifeline Aotearoa: 0800 543 354
● Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865
● Samaritans: 0800 726 666
● Alcohol and Drug Helpline: 0800 787 797
● General mental health inquiries: 0800 443 366
● The Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757