A year ago, Lee Adams had barely been on a bike. But last football season he cycled several thousand miles to see his beloved Fulham at away games all around the country, and now he’s about to walk from Fulham to Reading for the second time in a year.
The 33-year-old father of two describes himself as a low profile person, and up until very recently hadn’t put his face on social media. But check his Twitter feed now and you’ll see he’s up and down the country, even on TV. What’s changed?
The turning point came when he discovered CALM online in early 2016, ‘I didn’t know anything like this existed, I just looked at the website and was like, ‘this is for me’.
Eight years before, Lee tried to take his own life. After years of depression and suicidal thoughts he finally went to a GP when it got too much. ‘I was shaking, the GP offered me medication but I didn’t take it. I broke down and cried. The GP said ‘you’re going to a psychiatric unit’, and they tried to give me pills there but I didn’t want to take them. My family were around the bed saying ‘Lee, what’s going on?’.’
With the help of his family, Lee pulled through that period, but his struggle with depression continued, ‘I didn’t know where to turn, who to talk to, so I just got on with life with a fake smile on my face. I used to sit on the sofa, overweight, ordering Chinese food. I was living in my own little bubble.’
I just got on with life with a fake smile on my face. I used to sit on the sofa, overweight, ordering Chinese food. I was living in my own little bubble.
‘Then I found CALM and the statistics really hit me. I thought I was alone in this struggle but when I looked at the website I recognised myself. I thought, ‘this is amazing’, and I just knew I needed to do something to show other men that they aren’t alone, that there’s other people out there going through the same thing and an organisation that can help them if they need to talk.’
Lee knew he wanted to marry this drive to get the word out and help other blokes with his one true love, Fulham FC. ‘I come up with some of my best ideas after a few beers. I knew I wanted to do something big. I love my football, I love my fan away days, so I had a few beers and sent out a tweet, it said: ‘If this gets 10 retweets, I’ll walk to Fulham away game in Reading’.
I love my football, I love my fan away days, so I had a few beers and sent out a tweet, it said: ‘If this gets 10 retweets, I’ll walk to Fulham away game in Reading.
Sure enough the retweets rolled in, and very shortly after Lee and his mate Luke found themselves setting off at 8:30pm to start the long overnight trek from Craven Cottage to Reading FC, egged on by friends and fellow football fans on Twitter. ‘It was the first time I felt pride in what I was doing. It was fun, and very demanding. The support I was shown was amazing and really pushed me, when I thought I couldn’t go on I would look on my phone and it’d be full of messages from family, fellow Fulham fans, Preston fans, Chelsea, West Ham fans, Manchester United fans, work mates, mates in the USA and most of all from my children. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. It really changes your whole attitude and pushes you like nothing I’ve known before. It took us all of 16 hours. When we finished I felt a massive sense of achievement.’
After realising that walking to every Fulham away game would be completely unfeasible. The logical next step was trying to cycle, not being one to shy away from a challenge – the fact that he’d barely been on a bike until that point didn’t phase him. He bought himself a new set of wheels and with next to no training he was on the road at 4am, at the start of a 248 mile ride from Fulham FC to Preston, ‘I just got up and went for it’. And he hasn’t stopped.
Not being one to shy away from a challenge – the fact that he’d barely been on a bike until that point didn’t phase him.
Lee is grateful to have been accompanied by various buddies on this Cycle Fulham Away journey. His main sidekick being his friend Morgan. ‘He liked what I was doing. We opened up about our problems and it just went from there.’
Their first cycle was to Wigan. ‘We met up at 4:30am at Fulham FC, lighting and thunder in full force. The heavens opened like I have never seen before. We had to seek refuge in a McDonald’s (just in time for breakfast). Our chat is mostly effin this and effin that, he likes going up hill, I like going downhill, and I’m usually having a row with the woman giving me directions on Google Maps!’
At the matches themselves, Lee has had the opportunity to meet all sorts of people to tell his story and hear theirs: “The response has been incredible. I have people coming up to me at matches saying “what you’re doing is amazing! I met a woman who said ‘my husband has been suffering from depression and never told me.”
‘People shouldn’t shy away from it. I think people should be open. I could have been dead 8 years ago. Since coming out and coming clean about everything I feel so much better. Why isn’t it a bigger deal in the public eye? Why aren’t we talking about this mass problem? I’m hoping to change that.’
The Cycle Fulham Away challenge also caught the attention of niche football show, FAN TV, and Lee has sat on the sofa with presenter Justin Lee-Collins and the rest of the crew to spread the good word of CALM along with his post-match analysis.
He’s a man on a mission and is determined to keep this going to reach as many people as possible.
Until the day I die I’ll never give up on this, I’m like a dog with a bone.
‘This challenge has changed my life for the better, I’ve met so many amazing people. Until the day I die I’ll never give up on this, I’m like a dog with a bone. I just want to say thank you to everyone that has tweeted us support it really does mean so much. To my mum, dad, bother and my two boys Charlie and Billy thank you for supporting me though all this, you are all magic. And to the people that have opened up to me and told me their story, you aren’t alone, please remember that.’
— matchworn fulham (@matchwornshirt1) July 11, 2017
On Friday August 11 at 7.15pm, Lee aims to repeat last year’s challenge and complete the overnight 40 mile journey from Fulham’s Craven Cottage stadium to Reading’s Madejski Stadium in 15 hours. This time with 10 other fans! They’ve already surpassed their original fundraising target of £3,000, including a donation from television presenter and fellow Fulham fan, Richard Osman.
Head to Lee’s JustGiving page for more information on the walk and to make a donation.
For updates, search #Fulham2ReadingWalk on Twitter.
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