Running has always played a part in my life. It's always been a way that I have expressed myself, and something that has provided a great sense of achievement over the years. Whilst my career started to take shape as an actor, I was introduced to the running team at Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research by another actor, and was given the opportunity to take on my first race in 2007 – the London Marathon. The most I'd ever run at that point in time was around 8 miles. Another 18.2 miles wouldn't be that difficult would it? I remember reaching half way at Tower Bridge feeling elated and quite strong. I'd foolishly labelled myself with some kind of superhero status. Another 13 miles to go and I'd be crossing the line with Haile Gebrselassie. Little did I know…
There's always a point during a marathon where you get found out, and that’s normally around 15 miles. The body fatigues and the brain’s relentless efforts to bring the whole thing to a halt become unbearable. If you've trained enough, you'll prosper. If you haven't, you'll turn into Thora Hird at The Mall (if you're lucky enough to get there that is). I hadn't trained at all. I was winging it and I was ashamed. But what got me over that finishing line were the paragons of virtue that surrounded me. When I couldn’t reconcile my legs with my brain I began to notice what the other runners were wearing - a multitude of colours and causes. Pictures of loved ones and messages of hope from well-wishers on the backs of T-Shirts. Men and women pushing themselves beyond their limits in order to achieve a collective goal. The genuine enthusiasm and encouragement from the spectators echoed a belief in the human spirit.
It woke me up to the world beyond my imagination, and running became more than just a pastime. From that moment on I wore my yellow vest with pride and always made sure that when I represented Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, I would always try my best.
However, it wasn’t until 2012 that it really hit home for me. A friend of mine, Iwan Williams. A multi-talented charm of a lad, who had battled with lymphoma for nearly 4 years, succumbed to the disease. He was 37 years old. He left a beautiful wife, Lowri and 6-year-old son, Cian behind. Suddenly the yellow vest was my caped crusader. It wouldn’t bring Iwan back but it could help me to strive to find solutions for this terrible disease.
And so, after pushing ourselves through triathlons, marathons and Ultra Marathons, Mark and I wanted to take on the ultimate race. A race that would push us beyond ourselves - The Marathon Des Sables. This would need careful consideration, family commitment and nerves of steel.
Running long distances forces you to examine fundamentals. It forces you to think. The team of researchers in Cardiff, who are funded by Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, and who we had the privilege of meeting a few weeks ago, spend their whole lives thinking about blood cancers for the good of mankind. In their words, “we’re close to combating this disease. It's within our grasp”. That’s why we’re doing this; to fund that lifesaving research that will one day find the cure for all blood cancers.