FEATURE: Matthew Rhodes in conversation with Tom Cotterill

Updated: Aug 6, 2020

“My legs have just about recovered! I actually feel better than ever now…your body adjusts to whatever demands you put on it.”

July 31st saw the completion of a remarkable charity feat. On a hot, humid and thundery Friday, Tom Cotterill, 32 and from Chesterfield, finished a half marathon.

What makes this extraordinary is that Tom had run a half marathon for the previous thirty days in a row. For every day this July, Tom completed a half marathon by himself and as a result of this has managed to raise around £1,500 for Sheffield Children’s Hospital’s cancer and leukaemia ward.

He said: “My running really picked up in 2016 – at that time I had a little girl called Taryn who was stillborn. Following that, I started running for lots of different reasons. I enjoy running but I also find it is positive for your mental health.”

Tom regularly participates in organised fundraising marathon and half-marathon events every year but 2020 of course has been no ordinary year. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, all mass-participation running events are cancelled and are not likely to be resumed again until next year.

“I got to this summer and I thought, well, what can I do? I didn’t want the year to pass by without any sort of level of achievement. I racked my brain and I thought, well, if there’s nothing organised, I’m going to have to be creative and do my own thing…I thought I’m going to have to think big. I always run with my little Taryn and she pushes me and motivates me but I wanted to do something that would help someone else out.”

It was at this point that Tom came across the story of Jude Hawkridge, an eight year old boy who is being treated at Sheffield Children’s Hospital’s cancer and leukaemia ward. Tom discovered his story on social media via a work colleague and once he was aware of this he decided to create his own running challenge which would raise money for the ward that Jude is being treated at: 31 half marathons in 31 days. A whole July of arduous running whilst also continuing with his day job as normal. An enormous challenge for anyone and Tom soon realised the enormity of what he had planned.

“In order to find time to do this, I would leave home before I’d even started work. I would often start running at quarter to five in the morning…the biggest challenge isn’t the physical aspect, it’s the mental aspect. There were points where it would have been easy to have given up.”

Giving up though is just something that isn’t in Tom’s nature. After battling through some mentally energy-sapping runs in the middle of the month, Tom kept going and ended up remarkably finishing off the last few days without much trouble at all. You’d be forgiven for thinking Tom was delirious at the end of his challenge and would have wanted to have chucked the running shoes out of sight for a long while. Chesterfield’s charity hero though has well and truly got the running bug.

“The last run of the month was a strange one. It ended up being the hottest day of the whole month! So it was very hot, very humid but then about two-thirds of the way through a big thunderstorm broke out! It was nice to finish the challenge. It almost felt like it was a hollow victory.

"I was actually a little sad the challenge had ended! It had been a fantastic month. I was just pleased to have accomplished what was set out with the challenge and with the fundraising target. This was never a personal thing for me to set out and do. This was about a young boy who needed a helping hand.”

“We’ve raised around £1,500 now. I’ve found that by doing charity fundraising like this, it’s not all about the amount of money raised – it’s also about getting people talking and spreading the word.

"This has helped send out the message that we need to keep building a better environment for children in hospital who need long term care. Children like this miss out on so much and can be vulnerable and it’s only right I think that they have access to a comfortable environment for their treatment to be provided in.”

“I can’t thank everyone enough for the support that has been provided. I feel like I’ve made some new long term friends by doing this.”

With Tom’s July challenge passed with flying colours, does he already know what his next charity challenge will be?

"Not as of yet! I’m thinking about doing something which involves longer distances within a shorter space of time. That’s something I’d like to work to. It’ll certainly be bigger, whatever it is. It’s certainly not going to be the end."

To listen to Derbyshire Media Company’s full interview with Tom Cotterill, you can click on the link below:

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