Diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in 2014, Kevin Webber has since run two marathons to raise funds for us and is now training for the epic, trans-Sarahan Marathon Des Sables in April. Joining Jeff Stelling for the final leg of the Men United March, we spoke to him about his extraordinary story.
Four years after deciding to take up running again in his forties, Kevin had run six marathons and was in training for the Brighton Marathon, with high hopes to beat his PB of 3hrs 40mins. He ran with his friend, Jim, at night to minimise any disruption to their families, covering 40 miles between 9pm and 4am on one occasion.
But in September 2014, Kevin began to feel unwell. "I knew that something was wrong with me but didn’t know what," he recalls. "I didn't tell anyone until the doctors confirmed what I had and how bad it was."
The diagnosis came on 6 November: Kevin had advanced prostate cancer and was given just a couple of years to live. He was only 49 years old.
"I told Jim on a training run in the dark," says Kevin. "I think we both cried for much of the way round."
Kevin immediately started chemotherapy and realised the Brighton Marathon would fall during his 14th week of treatment. But he was determined to complete the event and Jim pledged to run at Kevin’s pace for the duration, willingly sacrificing his dream of finishing in less than four hours.
They continued training together right up until race day and Kevin crossed the line at an incredible 4hrs and 36mins.
"It was the hardest, slowest and most emotional marathon I have ever run, but I did it," Kevin says. "I don't think I have ever dug as deep as I did in the last hour. But with the support, the money I was raising, and the fear of letting anyone down, I wanted to show other men who have this dreadful disease that – despite everything – sometimes you can do things if you don't give up, no matter how hard it is.
"I know from the Prostate Cancer UK online forum that there are hundreds of people in their own way doing their own ’marathons’ every day, struggling for sometimes the most basic of needs. And what they do is way beyond what I achieved with this marathon. They also frequently have the support of friends and family getting them through each day just like I did on race day. They are the real heroes but get no praise for what they do.”
Following that astonishing performance, Kevin went on to run the London Marathon just two weeks later and is now training for the epic Marathon Des Sables in April. Calling it his last big race, the 150-mile unsupported run across the Sahara requires Kevin to carry everything he needs on his back.
"On the hardest day, you effectively climb the height of Snowdon three times over, only this will be over mountains and sand dunes in temperatures approaching 50 degrees," says Kevin, who recently finished a 66-mile race and has been cross-country skiing in Canada as part of his preparations. "Training to date has been tough, and certainly isn’t helped by my situation, but I’ll do my best to be as fit as possible for this event."
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