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Paul Webb wins Antarctic Ice Marathon

It’s an extreme marathon like no other but Paul Webb is a Worldwide Cancer Research supporter like no other and not only did he manage to complete the 2015 Antarctic Ice Marathon (his seventh marathon across seven continents) he also managed to win the race!

The annual 26.2 mile race conducted in temperatures as low as -20 degrees Celsius saw 50 runners from 19 countries wrap up in layers of thermals to compete in incredible conditions.

British men dominated the men’s marathon taking home gold, silver and bronze with Paul sliding home in first place in a time of 3:35:25 - less than one minute outside the existing race record set by Petr Vabrousek, a two-time long distance World Cup winner at triathlon.

Paul came into the Worldwide Cancer Research offices last week to celebrate his year of amazing fundraising and gave us his thoughts and reflections on a year of incredible feats.

“In 2011 I ran my first marathon in Marrakech, I was so poorly after the race from physical exhaustion I swore I would never run a marathon again. I had experienced ‘hitting the wall’ an expression used to describe the effects of your glycogen stores running on empty. The last 9km felt like an eternity as every ounce of energy had been sapped from me. It wasn’t until April 2014 before I overcame my fears by running in the London marathon as part of my fundraising challenge.  I have now run the 26.2 miles distance on every continent to become one of only 134 people to ever do so.

“My last race was the Antarctic Ice Marathon, which took place at the Union Glacier camp on 20th November. It was a whiteout for much of the event with temperatures averaging -20 C; the low contrast made it difficult to see the running surface and it was a constant battle to find firmer ground to run on. I finished the race in first place in a time of 3:35:25 - less than one minute outside the existing race record set by Petr Vabrousek.

“To finish with a win is incredible, it still hasn’t really sunk in. If you told me this would happen four years ago I would have said you were crazy! After the race in Morocco I remember talking to a guy who was staying at the same riad, he told me how he had tried to break three hour in the marathon but had just managed 3:15. I was so in awe of his time and the three hour barrier was just unimaginable. But earlier this year I ran my first sub three hour marathon in London. It was just two weeks after the Marathon des Sables, a 156 mile self-sufficiency race across the Sahara. During the desert race I had lost 6-7 Kg in weight and I think this helped me to achieve a fast time in London. Since then I’ve broken three hours in Rio de Janeiro, Berlin and Auckland.

“I’m just a normal guy with no particular sporting talent. I now believe it is possible for anyone to achieve almost anything if you put your mind to it. All that is required is dedication and determination.”

But Paul didn’t just set himself a challenge to run seven marathons in seven different continents, he was also trying to raise as much money as possible to support pioneering cancer research worldwide.

“How do you set a fundraising target? For me it was simple; I had planned to cover a virtual pole to pole journey of 20,000 km during the time between my first and last marathon, so I decided on a target of £20,000, £1 for every km.

“To be honest I thought the target was conservative and believed, naively, that I would easily raise £250,000.

“I soon discovered that fundraising is not that straightforward after all unless you’re a celebrity! You very quickly exhaust your immediate sphere of influence and without good publicity it can be difficult to raise large sums. We made more money through selling cakes at work than we did from me running a marathon!

“But, my challenge wasn’t just about raising money, I wanted to raise the profile of Worldwide Cancer Research too. I was fascinated by the fact that many people in the town of St Andrews itself, where Worldwide Cancer Research has its main office, do not know the charity exists - yet scientists across the globe knew where to come for funding.

“I wanted everyone to know about Worldwide Cancer Research and the fabulous work they do, I wanted to reach out and get others fundraising for the charity too. This, I thought, was far more important than the fundraising itself because the benefits would be longer lasting. I decided the best way to achieve this would be to undertake a challenge with a global theme, one where I could travel the world visiting scientists funded by Worldwide Cancer Research. In doing so I could make people aware that local researchers  were being funded by a comparatively small charity based in Scotland, in some case on the other side of the world.

“It has been a remarkable journey; I’ve been fortunate to visit some amazing places and have met incredible people along the way. I have been so impressed by the scientists I have met in North America, Australia and New Zealand. All of them have an unparalleled enthusiasm and dedication to their work. They are passionate, inspirational people who want to make a difference in the world. Amongst other topics, like what I think about when I run, we typically talked about the lack of available funding for research in general and the increased importance of charities like Worldwide Cancer Research.”

Paul, we think you are pretty incredible too – thank you so much for your support!

Director of Marketing and Communications at Worldwide Cancer Research

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