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en3RunShawn2.Jpg Giving back . . . Edendale man Shawn Letham plans to run 42km at the Gumboot Friday fundraiser. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

Shawn Letham is going more than the extra mile to honour a friend who helped him through a tough patch in his life.

The Edendale man will run 84 laps of the Edendale Rugby Club grounds in memory of his friend Sam Brown, who took his own life earlier this year.

The 37-year-old will cover 42km, the same length as a marathon, on Saturday and his effort will also raise money for Gumboot Friday.

Mr Letham said he met Mr Brown through mutual friends when they were young.

After Mr Letham met his partner Rebecca Musson, and Mr Brown moved away from Southland to study at university, they stayed in touch.

“He had a knack for showing up at the right time,” Miss Musson said.

After he graduated from university, Mr Brown was employed as a counsellor in a Christchurch school but enjoyed coming back south.

“When he came to me he let his hair down,” Mr Letham said.

Three years ago when Mr Letham was going through a hard time, he asked Mr Brown for help.

Over many visits the pair talked for hours and spent time working out.

“He put me through the ringer, opened my eyes back up.

“Slowly but surely I managed to become level again.”

The last time the family saw Mr Brown was in January, but there was no sign he was struggling with his mental health.

In hindsight “he came down to say goodbye”.

Mr Letham decided to run 42km because his friend ran ultramarathons and also it would have been his 42nd birthday in December.

While he had always jogged, he had stepped up his training in the past three months.

Supporting Gumboot Friday, mental health initiative I Am Hope’s annual event to raise funds to provide counselling for young people, was one way he could repay his friend for the help he had given him.

“I’m no brainiac but I know how to run.

“The only way I can help is to run.”

Mr Brown had worked with many people but young people had a special place in his heart.

“He was about the kids.”

It was important adults knew how to manage their own mental health as they were role models for children, Mr Letham said.

“We need to make sure the kids are OK and then we need to make sure the adults are OK too.”

Men in particular seemed to struggle with mental health issues, Miss Musson said.

“There is such a stigma behind men expressing their feelings and asking for help because they’re in this mindset they’ve got to be a bigger person; they’ve got to look after everyone else.

“Even if this run helps one person it is something that has been achieved.”

Everyone is welcome to attend the fundraiser at Edendale on Saturday, organisers have said.

Mr Letham said people could come and watch him running or join in as he did laps of the rugby club grounds.

His children Melia (12), Makenna (9) and Jaxon (4) were planning on joining him for some of the laps.

People could wear purple or buy a purple T-Shirt or mask.

“Sam’s favourite colour was purple,” Miss Musson said.

People could also sponsor Mr Letham.

There would be refreshments available.

Mataura Four Square had given bread, Piper’s Produce had provided onions and Mataura Butchery had subsidised the cost of sausages for a sausage sizzle.

The rugby club was allowing those involved in the fundraiser to use the facilities free of charge.

The run would start at 9am.