Former European, Commonwealth and World Champion 400m sprinter Iwan Thomas MBE completed the biggest challenge of his life on Saturday (12 June 2021), beating all the odds as he reached the finish line of the Centurion Running South Downs Way 100, a gruelling race with over 3,800m of elevation, raising over £20k for Group B Strep Support, the world’s leading charity working to eradicate Group B Strep infection in babies.
The event, which fell on the hottest weekend of the year with temperatures reaching a whopping 29 degrees, saw many unfortunate runners succumbing to heat stroke and dehydration. Iwan commented: “This was the most brutal thing I have ever done. The temperatures made what should have been a difficult run almost impossible for me. I got a phone call from home at mile 50 to say my son had been taken into hospital (NB. Teddy is now OK and now back home) and I had the impossible decision to make – whether to jump in a car and go to him or complete the run to make him proud. That gave me the rocket I needed to get moving and just pick away at the miles. At one point I had just a four-minute margin before I would have missed the cut off but knowing my boy was in hospital and that I just needed to get this done and get home spurred me on.”
Thomas’ son Teddy was diagnosed with Group B Strep in 2018, an infection caused by streptococcal bacteria, which can lead to meningitis, pneumonia and sepsis, and spent the first ten days of his life in intensive care. Thomas commented: “Seeing Teddy covered in tubes and battling for his life was by far the worst experience of my life. If I can shine a light on this infection that claims the lives of so many young children then the pain of what I endured this weekend was 100% worth it.”
The world renowned 400m sprinter had not run further than 26.2 miles before he began his training for the event and spent months training with endurance running legend Susie Chan and Mike Seaman, CEO of Raccoon Events Ltd (organisers of the National Running Show) to prepare for the 100-mile ultra but was faced with huge obstacles in his training journey including a car accident and injured foot.
Stretching from Winchester, Hampshire to Eastbourne, East Sussex the South Downs Way 100 is considered one of the most challenge 100 milers in the UK and was the equivalent of 400 x 400m sprints. Iwan went on to comment: “The running community is one of the most supportive communities I have ever encountered and it has been an honour to be part of it for such a long time. My training for this event did not go to plan but the encouragement I received, and the support sent from around the world meant that there was no way I wasn’t going to finish this race. This challenge required me to rethink every ounce of training knowledge I had to completely change the way my body was used to running as well as the mental shift required to keep going for so many miles when all the body wants to do is stop. I hope that my story will help raise awareness and vital funds to ensure that more families are aware of the infection and know when to seek help.”
Iwan’s journey is being documented and will be released on the YouTube channel Run Show TV this Summer – the trailer is now available to view: https://youtu.be/ytLsIezzGCE
To donate to Group B Strep Support https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/gbssiwanthomas