Simon (right) running in Sotogrande with his fiancée, Jessica, and friend, Stefan
Simon (right) running in Sotogrande with his fiancée, Jessica, and friend, Stefan / SUR

From couch potato to marathon junkie

  • A 34-year-old from Gibraltar was cheered around Sotogrande recently as he ran the marathon distance to raise funds for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity

Simon Jacobs, who was due to run his third marathon in the space of a year, refused to take 'no' for an answer as extreme rain and flooding forced organisers to call the Malaga Marathon off in December. Having raised 1,500 pounds for the cancer charity, a cause very close to his heart, he felt he owed it to his sponsors to complete the 42 kilometre challenge regardless of the official marathon being cancelled.

On 30 January the rain held off as Simon set off with two friends and his fiancée in tow. His fiancée, Jessica, and a friend, Stefan, ran 10km for the first time before turning into Jacobs' support team, cheering him and Ashley Bolton on for the remaining 32km. The run was one in a long line of races he has completed in aid of the cancer charity.

Simon completed the distance in 5:22:17, having to allow for a few water and stretching stops. He told SUR in English of his aim to achieve a time under the five-hour mark but how, unfortunately, tight hamstrings resulted in a much slower final 12km than he had hoped for.

Despite his disappointment when the Malaga Marathon was cancelled, Jacobs acknowledged that safety must come first and, with "the onslaught of torrential rain" that hit the Spanish coastal city on 4 December, he conceded that it was never really an option for organisers to go ahead.

A lifestyle change

From a self-confessed couch potato to marathon-mad, Simon has transformed his lifestyle in the past few years. Despite having always been a fan of sport, in the past he "preferred to enjoy it from the comfort of the sofa". Now trainers are the first thing he packs in his suitcase, regardless of where he is travelling.

When asked what it was that first dragged him away from the sofa, Simon revealed: "Back in December 2014, a good friend, Ashley Bolton, asked if I would be interested in running with him". This was taken as a light-hearted, throwaway comment over their regular get-together for tapas and a few drinks; that is, until Simon found himself running around the Rock of Gibraltar on a regular basis.

"Not content with non-competitive running, Ash suggested we enter the Estepona 10km Run and this was soon followed by the Gibraltar Half Marathon and the start to my running challenges."

Since his first casual run in January 2015, Simon has completed more than seven half marathons, including Marbella, Sancti Petri, Seville and London Royal Parks, and two full marathons (Malaga 2015 and Rome 2016) as well as the recent Monday morning run in Sotogrande.

Originally from London, the 34- year-old describes the feeling of crossing the finish line after 42 kilometres as both a 'relief' and 'humbling'. "By no means am I the best runner in the world." he admitted. "I would classify myself as an enthusiastic participant. The feeling of knowing I have done as much as I possibly could to support The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity is really what keeps me going on all of these challenges".

Simon's family have experienced cancer first-hand as his father was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in 2009. He received all of his treatment at The Royal Marsden Hospital in London, which the family describe as "a truly wonderful hospital full of wonderful members of staff".

Through his running challenges, Jacobs has raised £6,237 for the charity so far. He said: "By supporting The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, we're supporting four key areas; research, diagnosis, treatment and care. Fortunately, I have been able to see all of these processes in action at The Royal Marsden Hospital and it literally changed our lives, so anything I can do to support such a wonderful place, truly is a privilege."

Had someone told Simon, as he sat and enjoyed his tapas and vino back in December 2014, that he was about to embark on a journey that would see him complete two full marathons and over seven half marathons in the next two years, he would have thought they were raving mad: "I'm grateful that Ash introduced me to running as I never thought it would be possible to achieve the things I have over the past couple of years. Physically, running has helped me lose over 25kg but, most importantly, I have made new friends and experienced things that I never dreamt would be possible."

Simon hopes to increase the total he has raised for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity to £10,000 by participating in a couple more marathons in the near future; his sights are set firmly on Malaga 2017 (weather permitting) and London 2018.