Runner Lee Winter has been braving wind and rain to train for the London Marathon. Here he explains his poignant reason for taking on the challenge in aid of mental health charity MIND.
I can remember exactly where I was when the call came. It’s one of the few memories I still have from that time that is crystal clear. Everything else, particularly of life before, is now largely forgotten.
It was a Sunday. A TV quiz show called Bullseye was on. My younger brother and I were sat on chairs facing the screen with my mum in the kitchen. It was Mother’s Day.
Lee Winter with his late father David in 1977
The day before we had been to visit our dad at what had been the family home until my parents had gone their separate ways the year before. I remember not really saying much to him.
We’d played football up the field at the back of the athletics stadium where we’d once been to see Zola Budd run barefoot.
This time dad wasn’t with us.
I can’t remember what I said to him at the end of that visit. I can’t remember if we caught up on school or friends or how he had been doing; I can’t remember if we said goodbye.
I remember the phone call. I knew there was bad news coming the moment it rang. I can still recall that feeling of dread as my mum went to pick up the receiver, the empty ache that is still there to this day. There was no easy way to tell us. Our dad had taken his own life.
Dad was no depressive, at least not until near the end. Of the few memories I have of him I remember someone who loved life.
He had worked at an army camp near the place I still think of as my hometown, Abergavenny, in a beautiful corner of South Wales. He was a carpenter by trade with a pencil tucked behind one ear and a cigarette over the other.
He was fun, he was amazing, he was our dad. He just couldn’t adjust to the hand fate had dealt him. An accident three years or so before had left him relying on sticks to get around. Things hadn’t gone his way. He just couldn’t see any other way out. I wish I could have persuaded him otherwise.
What it showed, something I didn’t appreciate for years afterwards, was that mental illness can happen to anyone. It could happen to you.
And that is one of the main reasons why I have decided to run the 2014 London Marathon in support of mental health charity MIND.
Lee Winter will be running the London Marathon to raise money for MIND
The death of a lovely colleague last summer also increased my resolve to do something and I had no hesitation in saying yes when MIND called to offer me a place.
Over the coming months there will be thousands like me, including a fair few hardy souls from Medway, training hard come rain or shine to survive the gruelling 26.2 mile course through the capital in April.
Meeting my £1,650 funding target will be an equal challenge, as it will for everyone. If you know someone, and even if you don’t, support them if you can.
I was 15 when my dad died. I’m now as old as he was when he decided he wanted out.
In the intervening years much has changed, not least the arrival of my lovely better half with whom he shares his birthday.
I hope there’s much of what I’ve done that he’d be proud of. I’ve not had him high in my thoughts over the decades but this run will be a chance to get re-acquainted.
- To support Lee in his marathon efforts, visit uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Lee.Winter2