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Teams start running and walking for Ben

Around 800 runners and walkers are putting in the miles on the virtual road to Istanbul in memory of Ben Brown, who died last month.

Ben, 22, was a valued member of the Punchline delivery team. Ten teams are covering the 4,600 miles from Loughborough to Istanbul to raise funds and awareness for suicide prevention charity Papyrus during World Mental Health Awareness Week.

Ben was a member of Typhoon Squadron on the Loughborough University Defence Technical Undergraduate Scheme and had been planning a squadron trip to Istanbul for the summer.

His stepfather Mark Hartery, who runs event management company Aitch and Aitch Bee with Ben's mum Helen, said: "Ben had been very involved in planning that, but with Covid-19 it had all been cancelled."

Teams representing four DTUS squadrons and the Royal Navy began clocking up the miles yesterday and they are joined by five more groups today - Gloucester Penguins for Ben, including Punchline staff; Team Ohana; Worldline; and teams representing the rugby community and Crypt School.

Ash Bawden, head of PE at Crypt and Ben's former head of year, said: "Ben was cheeky and confident, but more importantly, a very driven young man. For me to be asked to do this in memory of him, it was a no-brainer.

"To follow this through in his memory is the ultimate driver."

Speaking in a video posted on Twitter, the Crypt Runners were also motivated to take part to highlight mental health issues.

Mr Bawden said: "Working in school on a daily basis, we're seeing the effects of mental health and it's ballooned into something else across society. We need to get stronger messages out there and people need to reach out."

The 57-strong Crypt team includes Ben's former classmates and current pupils.

In a video on Facebook to all of the teams, Ben's mum Helen, said: "Ben is our inspiration and our strength. Be like Ben.

"Together, we can all make a difference. We do this for Ben."

Mark Owen, managing director and editor of Punchline-Gloucester.com, said: "I'm heartbroken that Ben couldn't reach out and so sad for Helen and Mark.

"I was lucky enough to get to know and work with Ben on numerous occasions delivering Punchline magazines across the county. He was a very clever young guy with a great sense of humour and with the world at his feet. His loss is so sad."

The teams have already raised more than £15,500 for Papyrus and you can donate at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/loughborough2istanbul 

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