Memory of his dad will spur Mark on in Great South Run challenge

Weapons engineering Officer Mark Ballard, right, will be running the  Great South Run with his son Tom Ballard

Weapons engineering Officer Mark Ballard, right, will be running the Great South Run with his son Tom Ballard

Gino D'Acampo

‘For me it’s the easiest thing ever – I was born doing live TV’

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When Mark Ballard lost his dad from cancer earlier this year, Macmillan Cancer Support was there for the whole family with invaluable guidance.

Mark, 50, will be hoping to cross the finish line of the Morrisons Great South Run on October 25 in memory of his father, Les Ballard – a former Portsmouth policeman and dedicated volunteer who died on May 5.

The well-respected servant of the community was diagnosed with colon cancer in February of this year and sadly died 10 weeks later at the age of 73.

Mark is raising funds for Macmillan Cancer Support by running the leading 10-mile race with his son Tom Ballard, 21.

He said: ‘It all happened very quickly.

‘Dad had a stomach ache and then he was diagnosed with cancer.

‘I remember being told by the consultant he had about three months to live and when that information hits you, 
you don’t really know what to do.

‘One of the last things we spoke about was that my son and I were going to run the Great South Run to raise some money for Macmillan and he was all for that.

‘He even set me a target time, which I haven’t told anyone, but it’s something I should definitely be able to achieve and it will be the mental strength that gets me through the day.’

Mark, from Fareham, will join up to 25,000 runners on the start line of the Great South Run, which starts in Clarence Esplanade, 
Southsea.

Mark, a weapon engineering officer for the Royal Navy, says the charity did so much for their family – even in a short period of time.

‘I didn’t know much about cancer research until dad’s diagnosis but after talking to dad, who wanted to raise awareness of the illness, I realised the need to support the charity so that they can help others.

‘The advice forum that Macmillan offered really helped me to read up on what was to come, which just made life a little bit easier, especially digesting information 
that I could then read back to dad.

‘They gave us guidance and a quiet place to go just to think things through and that’s invaluable.’

Les was presented with Fareham’s Citizen of Honour award by Fareham Borough Council last year to thank him for his involvement in local groups, including Fareham Stroke Club and Community Action Fareham.

More than 100 people attended his funeral, including the Mayor.

Now that over £2,400 has been raised in his honour, Mark says that the Morrisons Great South Run will be a way of closing the chapter on an extremely tough year.

‘It’s been a rollercoaster of a year. We’ve already been raising money through lots of little things and people 
donating on our Justgiving page. I think this race will mark a final push of fundraising really and a way to mark 
dad’s memory in the right way.’

The Great South Run is the world’s leading 10-mile running event.

The route of the Great South Run takes in iconic landmarks such as the Spinnaker Tower and 
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

Runners are kept motivated by bands on the run, ‘boost zones’ and thousands of cheering spectators.

Famous faces to take part this year include double Olympic champion sailor Iain Percy and comedian Hugh Dennis.

European 10,000m champion Jo Pavey will be competing in the women’s elite field and will be bidding to win it for the third time.

As well as the 10-mile run on Sunday, October 25, there are 5k, junior and mini events taking place on Saturday, October 24.

There is still time to sign up by logging on to greatrun.org/south.

To sponsor Mark and donate to Macmillan Cancer Research, visit Mark’s fundraising page at justgiving.com/rememberLesBallard/.

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