Richie’s Marvellous Marathon

On Sunday 4th October 2020, thousands and thousands of people across the UK tied up their trainers and braved the wind and rain to take on the first ever virtual London Marathon. As a nation famous for it’s ‘keep calm and carry on’ attitude, Covid-19 wasn’t going to stop these determined runners, joggers and walkers from completing their marathon distance and raising incredible amounts of money for vital causes!

One of these brilliant people is Richie Thomas, who decided to take on the 26.2 miles to raise money for Prostate Cancer Research and Street Child – raising over £5000! We caught up with the legend himself to hear more about race day, why he chose to support us and his top fundraising tips for anyone wanting to take on their own challenge to support our vital research.

Hi Richie! Firstly, a huge congratulations on completing your Knole Park Marathon earlier this month – despite the treacherous weather conditions! Could you tell us a little bit about race day itself and what it was like?

It was cold and wet and the course was very hilly (640m of elevation altogether).

That said, I enjoyed it as I had lots of support from my wife, Alyson, and Sonja Lawrence from PCR with her sons Seb and Leo who all braved the cold, wind and rain to cheer me on. Also friends from Sevenoaks Athletics Club took it in turns to run laps with me and keep my spirits up.

It was a huge relief to finish, though, and get home for a warm bath and a nice cup of tea!

I believe this would be your 36th marathon in total – that’s amazing! Was there a particular reason you started running, and do you have any top tips for anyone out there who was thinking of running their first marathon?

I’ve always run since I was a teenager to keep fit. Rugby was my main sport until I retired from it in my mid-30’s and when I ran my first marathon some 20 years ago I was hooked! I’ve run 14 London Marathons and others in New York, Chicago, Berlin and around the UK. I’ve also run 7 ultra-marathons, including the infamous “Comrades” over 92kms between Durban and Pieter Maritzberg in South Africa, which I’ve run three times. Although when I was younger I was keen to better my times, now I’m in my 60’s and have experienced some health issues, I’ve had to accept slower times. Top tips: invest in professionally fitted running shoes; find, and stick to, a training programme that works for you and set yourself a realistic and achievable race strategy.

A massive congratulations (and thank you!) for raising over £5000 for Prostate Cancer Research and Street Child. How does it feel to know you’ve raised such an incredible amount? Did all of the messages of support and donations help to keep you running on marathon day?

Raising funds for charitable causes is a great motivation for running marathons and often when I’m “hitting the Wall” it’s the thought of helping those worse off than me that gets me to the Finish line. Over the years I’ve raised over £85,000 for charities through running. I’m very fortunate to have such loyal and generous supporters, many of whom have funded me from my very first marathon, and there’s no doubt that their messages inspire me to keep going.

We are so grateful that you chose to support us as you took on the marathon. Why did you choose to support Prostate Cancer Research alongside Street Child?

I have run most of my marathons for Build Africa, which recently merged with Street Child and which builds schools and supports communities in some of the poorest areas of the world. Several years ago I was privileged to be invited to open a school, which I and other marathon runners had helped to fund, in the remote village of Nyakibete in the Masindi District of Uganda. It was a life-changing experience and has made me determined to keep on running and raising funds for poor children for as long as my health permits. Unfortunately I had a couple of set-backs, first a heart attack and then advanced and aggressive prostate cancer, but I’m still battling on. I chose to run for PCR when I witnessed at first hand the wonderful, innovative work it is supporting in the quest to alleviate or even cure this debilitating disease.

Raising funds for charitable causes is a great motivation for running marathons and often when I’m “hitting the Wall” it’s the thought of helping those worse off than me that gets me to the Finish line.

You’ve raised an incredible amount for both charities. Do you have any top fundraising tips that you can share with us?

Maintain a list of willing supporters and keep them regularly updated on your progress. Set yourself an annual “Challenge” – just running a marathon every year may not be enough!!! I’ve also run ultras, entered triathlons, cycled sportifs, climbed mountains, completed the Three Peaks Challenge in under 24 hours and two years’ ago I ran a half marathon every month for 12 consecutive months. Open a web-based fundraising page to make it easier for your supporters to donate and keep in touch with your updates. Always say “thank you”.

And finally, do you think there are more marathons for you in the pipeline?

I have already entered the ballot for the 2021 London Marathon. Also, having lived and worked there in the past, I’m keen to run the Amsterdam Marathon at some point. This summer I was scheduled to hike with a group of friends the Chemin de la Liberté, the route over the Pyrenees used by British servicemen, Jewish refugees and others to escape Hitler during WW2. It had to be cancelled due to Covid-19 but I hope to reschedule it for next summer. Anyone fancy joining me?

Thanks so much for sharing your story Richie, and thanks for being a #PCRLegend! If you want to support Richie, you can make a donation on his Virgin Money Giving page

Think you’ve got what it takes to be a #PCRLegend? If you’ve been inspired by Richie’s story and want to take on your own challenge to support Prostate Cancer Research, check out our Events page to enter a race, or drop us an email to find out more about how you can get involved at [email protected]


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