Russ said: "Thursday 7 April 2016 is a day that will stick with me for life. I was on-board Pacific Vulcan, preparing for a charter in Thailand, when I was awoken very early in the morning with a call from home; my son Harry (aged 3) had been rushed in to hospital.
"Certainly not the call any parent wants, especially when working away from home. I was told that Harry was undergoing an emergency operation to stem a bleed, but I had been reassured by one of the doctors that it was a routine procedure and all would be fine. Unfortunately, a few hours later, the same doctor advised me that I should get back to the UK as soon as possible, as Harry had been diagnosed with leukaemia.
"While his diagnosis knocked the family sideways, Harry’s sense of humour, strength and determination has allowed him to fight the cancer head-on. Now, 19 months on from his initial diagnosis, Harry is still undergoing daily chemotherapy but we are looking very positively toward the future. Life has once again regained some form of normality, with Harry even able to attend school and live the life of any other five-year-old.
"When Harry was diagnosed, I naively knew very little about CLIC Sargent and the impact that the charity would have on our lives in the coming months. The CLIC Sargent team has been there for us at every step and remains by our side today, providing support, guidance and daily interaction not just for Harry but the whole family.
"To enable CLIC Sargent to continue helping young people and families who find themselves going through this horrible nightmare that is cancer, the charity relies heavily on fundraising and donations from the general public. Wanting to show my personal support and give something back, I decided to set myself a personal challenge that would hopefully raise a small amount of money for CLIC Sargent.
The big 2017 challenge
"So, in late 2016, I signed up for the Torbay Half Marathon and started hitting the gym on-board Pacific Leader. In the quest to raise more money, I persuaded my mate Andy into entering the half marathon with me. But apparently running 13.1 miles wasn’t enough for him, and a few days after he’d signed up, Andy hit me with a counter challenge. 'How do you fancy cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats?' he asked. Never being one to turn down a challenge, I immediately agreed – not giving myself the chance to change my mind.
"Suddenly, my small personal challenge of running 13.1 miles had grown legs, and I had committed to cycling the length of Great Britain in 12 days. This resulted in the ‘BIG 2017 CHALLENGE’ being born.
"So, after six months of mainly treadmill training, I found myself nervously lining up to start the Torbay Half Marathon. Not being a natural runner, I set myself the goal of getting around in less than two hours. With a cool, overcast day forecast, I was confident of achieving my goal.
"Note to self: never trust the British weather, as it ended up being the hottest day of the year! So, as the gun fired, I was just hoping that I made it around and had given up all hopes of being the next Mo Farah! More than 13 miles later – and having burned 2,691 calories – I crossed the finishing line in a time of 1 hour 51 minutes. To say I was elated was an understatement. Unfortunately, my celebrations were short-lived as it was back to work the following day.
"With part one of the big challenge complete, it was now time to fully focus on the ride – eight weeks to fully prepare for the biggest challenge of my life and the 1000+ miles separating Land’s End and John O’Groats.
"On a damp overcast day in late August, Andy and I arrived in Land’s End – the westernmost point of mainland Britain – and joined 14 other trepid cyclists, who were all meeting for the first time to take on the LEJOG (Land’s End to John O’Groats) challenge. The great thing about this kind of challenge is that everyone is doing it for different personal reasons and personal challenges, but all with the same goal of cycling the full length of Great Britain.
"Over the next 11-and-a-half days, as a group we’d experience many highs and of course the odd low just to keep us on our toes!
"On departing Land’s End, we spent the first three days cycling along the stunning coastline of Cornwall and Devon, up and over the rolling hills of Dartmoor and Somerset before crossing the River Severn into Wales. As we headed further north, the miles quickly ticked away, and we made steady progress up through the Lake District before crossing the border into Scotland on the morning of day seven.
"Up to this point, we had been blessed with ideal cycling weather, but all of this was about to change as the Scottish climate and infamous midges both lived up to their less-than-favourable reputations. The rain started just two miles after we crossed the border and did not really relent. The next five days saw us riding through the beautiful Scottish countryside, around Loch Lomond, up over Rest and Be Thankful and on to Fort William and Loch Ness, before reaching Dunnet Head, the most northerly point of mainland Britain, and the final push to John O’Groats.
Total Distance: 1,009 miles / 1,614.4km
Time Taken: 11.5 days
Calories Burnt: 39,629
Pedal Revolutions: 271,698
Cake Eaten: 39,629 calories worth!
"The ‘BIG 2017 CHALLENGE’ has been a fantastic experience. If you’d have told me 12 months ago that I would run my first run half marathon in under two hours and then a couple of months later ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats I wouldn’t have believed you. But I am now the proud owner of two medals and some fantastic memories, and can honestly say that I loved every minute of the challenge. The big question now is what’s next!
"A big thank you to all my friends and colleagues who have already kindly donated, but don’t worry – there is still plenty of time to donate and help CLIC Sargent carry on the fantastic work that they do in supporting young people with cancer."
To sponsor Russ please visit his official JustGiving page.
Find out more
To take on your own run or cycling challenge check out our events calendar to see what we have coming up.
To find out more please contact the Sports and Challenges team on 0845 602 4770 or email email@example.com.