‘We only have one life. Anyone is capable of achieving great things’

Mark Gallimore and his son George, five
Mark Gallimore and his son George, five
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Thousands will take part in this weekend’s Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon, all with very good reasons for doing so. 
Catherine Scott spoke to two men about their own stories.

All seven thousand runners will have their own motivation.

For 44 year-old ultra-marathon runner Mark Roe it is about showing people just what can be done.

In 2010 Mark had what most people would envy. He was happily married, had a good job as a tax lawyer in a top Leeds firm, a nice house, cars and expensive holidays.

But all Mark could see ahead of him was unending work.

“The more senior I became the less time I had to do the things I love, especially running. I had always loved running and had done a number of marathons and Ironman challenges, but I just found that I didn’t have the time to do it, as working and commuting took up more and more of my time.”

After four years behind a desk he’d put on weight and was starting to worry about the future.

“I was the heaviest I had ever been at 16 stone: tired, overweight, regularly ill and not yet 40. I knew if something didn’t change the shadows of such a life would begin to cast darker. How much weight would I put on? When would diabetes arrive or worse? Working hard was always important to me but the balance of playing hard too was no longer there.”

So in 2009 Mark decided it was time to take action. He signed up for the 2012 Marathon des Sables, one of the toughest races in the world: 153 miles in six stages across the endless sand dunes and mountains of the Sahara in temperatures as high as 52 degrees. It was to be a decision that would change Mark’s life forever.

“Those seven days were some of the toughest I have ever done, but it gave me time to reassess what I was doing with my life and what I really wanted to achieve,” says Mark who has written a book about his experience of the Marathon des Sables entitled Running from Shadows.

He told his wife he was leaving his job to allow him to do something which enable him to pursue his love of running.

His aim is to run 100 marathons and explore challenging environments across the planet by running extreme races in remote deserts and jungles.

“My wife was very understand,” he says. “She’s a successful solicitor and she has supported me entirely, although she does worry as some of the places and events are dangerous.”

Mark is currently preparing from an ultra endurance test which will push even him to the limit.

The Ancient Khmer Path is a 220km race in Cambodia, much of it through the jungle.

“Although it won’t be as hot as the Marathon des Sables, it will be 95 per cent humidity which will be incredibly challenging and there is the risk of dehydration, as you are sweating 24 hours a day.” The race involves running a marathon a day plus a double marathon in the middle.

So why does he do it?

“When you are experiencing that kind of hardship and exhaustion when you return home it give an added sharpness to life and makes you really appreciate what you have. There is nothing special about me and that’s what I want to get across to people. We only have one life and we have to make the most of it.

“Sunday will still be difficult, every marathon is difficult and I have admiration for every single person taking part in the Yorkshire Marathon. I really wanted to do this marathon as it is in York where I studied for a while and met my wife.

Mark said: “The message I try and spread now is: anyone is capable of achieving great things, whether it’s a 5K or a marathon or more, and of changing their perspective on life to the one they want, just as Jane Tomlinson did.”

For Mark Gallimore, taking part in Sunday’s marathon is a way of saying thank you to the people who are helping his son George battle leukaemia.

George, from York, was just two when he was diagnosed with the devastating condition which meant weeks and weeks of hospital treatment at Leeds General Infirmary.

“The day before George was diagnosed we’d been to Scarborough for the day and noticed he was having difficulty walking and was bruising easily,” says Mark. “We took him to York A&E and they did some tests and told us at 2am that our little boy had leukaemia. We just went numb.It is something you just don’t expect.”

George, with his mum Helen, has spent seven months of the last two years in hospital as the treatment means he is prone to other illness, he has had shingles six times and has to take handfuls of medication every day. What makes the hospital stays easier for George and his two sisters is the help and support offered by Yorkshire’s Candleighters charity.

“They have really helped make things bearable for all of us,” says Mark, who has already raised £3,500 for the charity.

George, who turned five this week, is currently in remission although he will continue treatment until November 2016.

Mark adds: “I know the marathon will be hard as I did it last year, but it isn’t anything to what these children have to go through.”

To sponsor Mark visit justgiving.com/mark-gallimore2