“WHEN the pain started to set in and our bodies wanted to give up we just thought about David and his memory spurred us on to the finish line.”
Those are the words of a team of four fathers at a Knowle Primary School who completed a grueling 100km run in memory of a fellow dad who lost his battle with cancer last year.
Kevin Justice, Chris Thorley, Alastair Tyson and Nick Ager – none of whom had attempted an ultra-marathon before – put on their running shoes and took on the ‘Race to the Stones’ event in honour of David Smith.
Tragically losing his battle with pancreatic cancer early last year, David left behind his wife, Amanda, and two daughters – eight-year-old Molly and six-year-old Knowle Primary School pupil, Jessica.
Inspired by David’s brave struggle, and wanting to support his family, Kevin, Chris, Alastair and Nick, lovingly christened ‘Dad’s Army’, decided to tackle the 62 mile race in the hopes of raising £6,200 – £100 for every mile – for the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund.
But Dad’s Army went above and beyond – not only completing the race in just 16 and-a-half hours but smashing their target to raise over £8,000.
The men started the race at around 8am and crossed the finish line at 12.30am the following morning.
“David was a really fun and energetic guy, and an amazing dad so we did it in his memory but also to help fund research,” Kevin told the Observer.
“Watching a young girl the same age as our children go through losing her father made us want to do what we could to help support the family.
“Amanda and the girls have been fantastic in coping, but we wanted to show them we’re still here to support them.”
Having never run more than a few miles, the men started their training in November with short runs during the week and longer runs on Sunday – to and from the pub.
The team then took part in Iron Man challenges and shorter ultra-marathon’s across the country to test their training and make sure they were ready for the grueling ‘Race to the Stones’ route from the Chilterns in Oxfordshire to the North Wessex Downs.
But none of it would have been possible without the support of their wives and children and David’s family, Kevin explained.
“Our families have been amazing and there’s no way we could have done it without them,” he said.
“We had all had niggles and injuries during the training, but knowing that our children know David’s youngest daughter Jessica so well and saw what she had to go through when he passed away really spurred us on.
“The thought of David also kept us motivated, as we wanted to preserve his memory and show Amanda, Jessica and Molly how loved he was.”
Not to be outdone by their husbands, the men’s wives – accompanied by David’s widow Amanda – will scale Snowdon later this year in their own ‘Race to the Summit’ fundraising challenge.
And wanting to reach their new fundraising target of £10,000, Dad’s Army will also hosting a quiz night and disco on Friday, October 7 at the Royal Legion in Solihull.
Email [email protected] to sign up a quiz team and to reserve your £5 ticket.