Since his leukaemia diagnosis in 2015, 27-year-old Iván González, from the small Asturias town of Illas, has radically changed his life. The father-of-two suffers from the incurable chronic leukaemia, for which he has to have continuous treatment. He did not let his illness put a halt on his life, instead he started running. Today, he is one of the best long-distance runners in the country. Last weekend he completed his impressive 1,000 kilometre run to pay homage to Pablo Ráez, a young man from Marbella who died after transplant complications nine months ago. He ran 600 kilometres and cycled 400 kilometres, from Avilés to Marbella.
As well as paying tribute to Pablo Ráez, who he never managed to meet, the aim of this great feat was to raise awareness about bone marrow donation, and to collect money on www.1000kilómetroscontralaleucemia.com.
In the final few kilometres of this eight-day journey he was joined by Paco Ráez, Pablo's father. They were met like heroes at the finish line, with applause and tears. Especially from Iván's parents and wife.
Iván received recognition at the Asociación de Voluntarios de Oncología Infantil (AVOI) event which was celebrated last weekend in the Marbella Palacio de Congresos.
As a gesture of his gratitude, Paco Ráez gifted Iván with the medal his son received some years ago after taking part in the Ronda 101 kilometres challenge for the first time. “I've got a lot out of this but what I feel most excited and emotional about is this,” Iván said, pointing at the medal, which hangs around his neck.
Iván passed through 88 towns in 10 provinces with his team of four people who monitored his health along the way.
“The hardest bit was the first part, in northern Spain. In the freezing, desolate areas the kilometres became a lot longer. But we fought against the weather and against the pain and it was fantastic,” assured the athlete, who was surprised to “finish in such good health”.
He is overwhelmed by the response he has received from the general public. “So many people who have opened their doors to me and given me everything even though they don't know me. It has been worth every metre,” he said. He maintains that he would “do it over again one thousand times”. “But after a bit of a break of course,” he joked.
“You think about 1,000 kilometres in a car and you think... wow. Imagine doing that walking or by bike without getting anything out of it, only for the desire to raise awareness. It's amazing,” an emotional Paco Ráez remarked.
Now, Iván González continues with his other personal challenge, facing leukaemia every single day. It is under control at the moment so he can prepare for his next sporting competitions.
“Pablo Ráez's legacy brought Iván and me together,” explained his personal trainer Octavio Pérez. “He has done this 1,000 kilometres for Pablo and for all the children who suffer this illness.”