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1 November 2023   |   Blog   |   

Running for a reason: Taking on the majors for Young Lives vs Cancer

Every year Sports Tours International helps hundreds of runners get to the start (and finish) of the world’s iconic marathons as they bid to raise money for life-changing causes. Russell Matthews joined us at the 2023 Chicago Marathon, where we discovered his heart-wrenching story.

In 2016 Russell’s son Harry was diagnosed with Leukaemia. It knocked the whole family sideways, but Harry’s sense of humour, determination and strength allowed him to fight the cancer head-on. Despite finishing treatment, it returned in 2019. The news devastated their world, yet Harry showed more determination than ever before – inspiring all those around him.

In 2023 Russell took on his biggest challenge in support of Young Lives vs Cancer, running three Abbott World Marathon Majors with Sports Tours: BerlinChicago, and New York this Sunday (November 5th)

Russell turned to running to help him mentally, and to hold some control over this devastating situation by raising money for Young Lives vs Cancer.

“My first big challenge was in 2016,” he said. “I ran the Torbay Half Marathon and cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats to raise money. The Young Lives rely heavily on donations to continue helping young people and families hit with this nightmare. The team were so supportive that I decided that I had to keep raising more awareness and funds.”

Russell ran the virtual London Marathon in 2020, the actual London Marathon in 2021, and again in 2023! He then decided to run the Berlin and Chicago Marathons with Sports Tours as part of ‘Russell’s Big Challenge’ for Harry.

He said: “Chicago was absolutely incredible. London is amazing, but Chicago is now an all-time favourite. Sports Tours made the whole experience so much better – especially because I was there on my own. You just felt that warm welcome, and it takes that extra bit of pressure away from you – it’s like a little family during your time away.”

“I’m not designed to run,” he added. “I’m not the smallest guy – I probably should be playing rugby. But you must have determination. Running a marathon is a huge achievement and personal challenge. I’m not there to set records, I’m there for my family. The great thing about Sports Tours is that it doesn’t matter whether you’re an athlete or you run it in six hours, they treat you the same.”

Once he’s conquered New York, Russell intends to turn his attention to the quest for Six Stars by completing all the Abbott World Marathon Majors.

He said: “Nearly as many people have climbed Mount Everest as have got their six stars, and that swung it for me. I could actually do this for Harry. I was quite angry and upset with life following Harry’s diagnosis, I had a lot of pent-up anger, but even running five miles certainly helps you focus and bring more balance to your life.”

Harry has now been off treatment for two and a half years. He is loving life and grabbing every opportunity. Russell continues to provide support to Young Lives vs Cancer and is running the TCS New York Marathon in November as part of Russell’s Big Challenge. We can’t wait to catch up with Russell at the finish line.

To find out more or make a donation to Russell’s Big Challenge, see:

Sports Tours can guarantee charity runners entry to several of the Abbott World Marathon Majors without a set fundraising target. For more information, email the team

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