Kevin Webber wouldn’t class himself as it, but he is an extraordinary man.
A humble family man and former senior banker, who lived a regular life until 2014, when his world got turned upside down with a diagnosis for terminal prostate cancer.
“You only have two lives and the second one starts the moment you realise you only have one," he says. "We should all live every day with a do-good, feel-good mentality.”
After his diagnosis came an inevitable wave of emotional turmoil over his and his families future. Kevin began his treatment for chemotherapy and the day after, he decided to go for a run. And he hasn’t really stopped running since.
"The day after chemo I felt absolutely rubbish. I looked out of the window and thought, 'I can be a victim and drink a bottle of Jack Daniel's every day, waiting to die - or I can try to live.’
And live he has. Since his diagnosis, he has completed multiple ultra marathons including The Artic 6633 - 190km over 3 days, then there is the Marathon Des Sables - 250km through the Sahara, both in extreme temperatures and conditions. Add to those The Hidden Treasure Race - 225km through the mountains of Albania and the Al Andalus Race, covering 230km through Spain. And on top of all these are 7 marathons in 7 days, 10 marathons in 10 days and the list goes on!
It may seem extreme to some people, but it also seems impeccably clear as to why Kevin lives life how he currently does. He pushes his limits and lives life as fully as he can, with the body that he has been graced with because he lives with a wake up call that life is short for us all. He is a keen supporter, educator and fundraiser for Prostate Cancer UK, having raised over £250,000 for them already. You can tell when talking to Kevin that his tenacity for life and sharing awareness drives him.
Kevins latest challenge is coming up on September 10th in the form of The Great River Race, Londons river marathon. An avid sea scout from a young age, Kevin learned his way with water through canoeing, sailing and rowing. He continued to dabble in sailing as a young man but everything came to a halt when he got married and began family life.
Roll forward to 2022, and he’s taken to the water again. If you go down to the river on a Tuesday evening, you will find 8 men all in training mode. One evening over a pint at the local pub, Kevins son Ollie suggested they should all have a crack at this rowing race in a boat called a Cornish Gig, and that was that. The team is made up of friends aged 40-62, and Ollie who is 17.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, affecting 47,500 men every year, which when broken down is 129 men per day.
1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.
Kevin and his team have named their Boat “One In Eight” and will be rowing for Prostate Cancer UK, and are proudly sponsored by Randies. Keeping the chaps cool and comfortable while they compete!
Please read on for an uplifting and insightful interview we did with Kevin last week, and click here to donate and support the team in their upcoming race.
Your energy, positive outlook and story is inspiring to anyone who is lucky enough to learn it. Throughout your own life, who has inspired you? And has that changed since your diagnosis, and living with prostate cancer?
Unlike many people, those I look up to and always have, are those who are just ordinary unsung heroes who do what they do every day just because it’s the right thing. They don't win awards and maybe never do sport however have a trait that is positive and resilient, here are a few:-
My old scout leader Dave, he allowed all of us to take calculated, supervised risks when we were younger.
My parents, they were just ordinary folk and thats it, they didn't push me hard, over praise, or have a go when things were not so good. Like my scout leader, they gave me the space to make my own decisions but were always there when I needed them.
In running, there is a guy called Duncan Slater (now a distant friend) who completed the Marathon Des Sables with two false legs after losing his in an IED explosion in Afghanistan, he just drives himself when its important but otherwise is just chilled, you would never know that he has prosthetic legs unless you see them. I met him after I was diagnosed on the race and like to think his resilience has come in handy for me on some dark days on my journey. We sat in a bar after finishing my second MDS arguing about who had it worse, him with no legs or me with terminal cancer both thinking that the other would be an impossible situation never really seeing our own challenges as that.
At work, my old boss Neal, not only was he always a good guy but from the moment I thought I may have cancer up to this time he has been incredibly supportive, pushing boundaries, taking so much time to give me the best outcome. If only all bosses could be like him.
In terms of energy I think I’m lucky, you see I know that life is now, not just because who knows if we will be around tomorrow but also its about doing things when you have the opportunity, when you are young free and single do what you should then, party in Magaluf, when you are in love , go to Paris, dance in the rain , when you have young kids go to Disney, carry them on your shoulders because one day they and you will be older and the moment will have gone and if it cant be perfect for whatever reason, find a way to do it differently. Never go to bed having created a new regret that day.
Your 17 year old son is joining you for the London Great River Race, which must be such a wonderful feeling. Is this the first time one of your children will be by your side for one of your accomplishments? Are there any plans for family to join you again on future races or challenges?
Ha, when I did the Brighton Marathon on chemo they were all there, when I came home from my first MDS there was a big gathering for me, now they just let me get on with it! My daughter once said to me that I set the bar too high, she missed the point, I am proud if she does couch to 5K, I have never tried to say what is a challenge and what's not because we are all different. What I have said though is that it’s all about how you feel when you do something.
When I managed to get Ollie in the team it was a proud moment for me, not only because we would be sharing the training, event and memories together but also because he actually wanted to spend time with me, something that usually he avoids like the plague!
You mentioned that the upcoming boat race is a first for you. Are there any other disciplines you are interested in exploring, perhaps on an ultra level?
Before I was ill, the only thing I wanted to do was the MDS apart from................... climb Everest. I would still love to climb Everest but it costs £70k and takes 2 years to train properly, neither of which I probably have!
So my goals - to raise more money, inspire others to live their life and do some good along the way. There is a 200k approx ultramarathon race in Bhutan that I want to do next May, costs a fair bit and race insurance may be an issue however thats the current aim. Its good to have targets because that gives purpose to train well and focus alongside living your best life. I also have a plan B, C and D though because stuff changes and rather than go all in on one thing its important to have a next best thing as that avoids disappointment and keeps you going in case you realise the wheels are otherwise falling off.
Have you always been keen runner? Or was it your diagnosis that sparked a keen interest and desire to run?
I was ok at long distance at school, I think because I had a resilience that made up for not being a good sprinter. I started running properly around age 20 when I started playing rugby, it was just a way of staying fit. i got injured about age 33 and that was it for 12 years. Then I started running again, my first marathon aged 45 and then tried to run 2 a year as a way of staying fit because my belly was getting bigger and I was generally chained to a desk in the day followed by late night fast food after evening meetings.
When I was ill, I went for a run the day after my first chemo and whilst I was rubbish, I could still run, just different. Terminal cancer takes so much away, your ability to dream about 21st birthdays, graduations, weddings, grandchildren, retirement and in terms of prostate cancer, the ability to be intimate yet I could run still, cancer had not taken that away so it became/is the thing that makes me feel normal and still a love. I also manage to use it as a force for good which adds even more value to every step.
Ricky, the Randies founder did a cycling challenge for a children charity called Big Change. The challenge was called Strive, which was 600km over 5 days from Monaco to Tignes. At the beginning of the race, his friend turned to him and said “Whats your biggest inspiration for doing this? Because you’ll really need to dig deep at stages to get you through and your inspiration will help you get there.” He said it was his children, and showing them that Dad was doing something out of the ordinary, something extraordinary. He said that at the times when he had to dig deep and lean in to his inspiration for competing, that at times it became incredibly emotional and almost out of body, with a rush of endorphins and inspiration. With all the challenges you have worked for and completed, have you had similar moments?
I have come to realise that many people see me as something special. I am not, I am just an average guy who wants to make the most of what’s in front of me and if I don't like what's in front of me, try to alter that future rather than accept an alleged pre determined destiny.
There is a list too long of when I have had to dig deep on my journey, from dealing with a fear of having a canula in my hand and self injecting in my belly daily to the heat of the Sahara.
What gets me through? Well the treatments are all effectively training for my running, without them I cant run so they are important so I just get on with them now. When I am running though its about proving to others with any challenge in life, not just cancer , that you can always try. In some races I have been in tears thinking I cant go on but then remember those who sponsored me, those who want me to succeed even those who want me to fail. I also see every £10 I raise making a difference and keeping running keeps my story fresh, as I say, if I can do this with cancer whats stopping a healthy 30 year old chasing a dream or a 70 year old with health issues, just shape your dream when you need to , that plan B, C D or even Z!
Please read Kevin's awe inspiring book 'Dead Man Running' available here