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Rugby league's marathon man

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George Riley George Riley | 19:17 UK time, Friday, 20 April 2012

Among the thousands of fund-raisers and fun-seekers lining the London Marathon course this weekend is a rugby league inspiration proving everyone wrong.

In 1996 Steve Prescott made his England debut alongside St Helens team-mate Paul Sculthorpe. On Sunday the two best mates will cross the finishing line together at Buckingham Palace at the end of an incredible journey. The pair will arrive in the capital from Calais, after travelling there in a rowing boat from Dover. This after running the Paris Marathon last Sunday and cycling hundreds of miles back to England in the days since. Steve also has terminal cancer.

In fact he was given months to live in 2006 and told he would not see his children grow up.

He is one of the most inspirational men I know.

"My doctor told me I was mad," says Prescott. "My specialist pulled a face when I told him what I was doing as if he couldn't believe how stupid I was being. I'm not doing it to prove anything or impress anyone. I'm doing it simply because I think I can. And so long as my body allows me to, I want to inspire as many others as I can too."

I spoke to the two friends on Thursday afternoon as they arrived back in London to register for Sunday's marathon, before heading back to Dover to await a break in the weather to jump in a rowing boat and cross the Channel.

The London Marathon will be a gruelling challenging for Prescott. Photo: Getty

The initial plan was to kayak across the Channel but poor weather has prompted a slightly sturdier five-man rowing vessel to be ordered, with Sculthorpe rounding up old mates such as Chris Joynt to fill the boat!

Their week of pain started last Saturday with a flight to the French capital, running the Paris marathon the following day in four hours and 20 minutes. Prescott tells me that pace was a bit too quick.

"I had the most severe cramp I have ever experienced and my hamstring went 300m from the line. I had to hobble over and couldn't even stand up on the kerb. Waking up the next morning I couldn't walk. I had to cycle 110 miles. I had to be mentally tough."

Mental toughness is something Prescott has in abundance. Walking around an empty KC Stadium while filming this week I could visualise the former Hull FC full-back crashing in for a try in the corner and pulling off another thumping cover tackle.

A points machine for the Airlie Birds, his biggest fight came in September 2006 when after being treated for stomach pains he was diagnosed with pseudomyxoma peritonei, a rare form of cancer. Hearing it was incurable, Prescott was told he would not see his two young sons grow up and should prepare wife Linzi for the worst.

He hid in his room crying before deciding he was not ready to stay goodbye. Six years on Steve is going strong, as is his charity, the Steve Prescott Foundation. He was made an MBE in 2010 having gone from points machine to fund-raising machine, bringing in hundreds of thousands of pounds. The total for this latest challenge alone had passed £16,000 when we spoke this week.

"Prekky has been superb," says Sculthorpe. "He just keeps going he is an incredible human being. Unbelievable, unreal, inspirational. All of this has been done with a smile. We have singalongs on the road and that's the only time we fall out.

"He's a hardcore rocker while I'm more Take That. We've spent the evenings having our legs massaged, singing and eating, then it's up at 5 and on the bike for 6".

Prescott admits he is braced for Sunday to be the worst pain of his life. "I am shattered and I am prepared for how bad this will be. But I'm in it to win it and I plan to dip for the line after beating Scully in a sprint finish down the Mall."

You can support Steve's fight here and keep up with their progress here


  • Comment number 1.

    Wow, this feat would be mindblowing for a fully fit athelete, not one suffering like he is, top respect for him.
    Good luck for Sunday, hope his hamstring holds outfor him !!
    As a side issue, how pedantic of the French to stop anyone (unless you put enough peer pressure on them) going from Calais to Dover, always has to be the other way round.

  • Comment number 2.

    George, make sure you do all you can to make sure BBC1/Radio 5 give Steve some regular exposure on Sunday to his fight. He is an outstanding example as to how to someone can fight such a horrible disease head on. Every time I've been to a grand final or challenge cup final he's always there in front of the crowd. A credit to the sport.

  • Comment number 3.

    George, this is by far your best blog yet, makes all others almost irrelevant, please keep this in the news all weekend as best you can.

  • Comment number 4.

    to re-iterate what has been said by all the previous comments Steve is an inspiration to everybody and if the Queen still has that knighthood spare given to Fred Goodwin then I can't think of a more deserving recipient than Steve

  • Comment number 5.

    Prescott is an inspiration to us all. No doubt about that whatsoever. Agree with comments above that more needs to be done to bring his fantastic fund-raising amid his awful personal circumstances to a wider audience. George...?

  • Comment number 6.

    Great blog George. It's a pity it couldn't be linked to every section of the website instead of just rugby league! Steve Prescott, and his support crew, are all amazing and as I write five of them are rowing across the channel. Incredible stuff.

    Although not everyone will get the chance to live years when diagnosed with a terminal condition, Steve does epitomise what the human spirit can achieve if it is focused outwards towards others and I hope he can continue for many years yet. He is an incredibly courageous individual and a true inspiration.

  • Comment number 7.

    Just hope the bbc give him the coverage he deserves whether its en route or crossing the line!! GOOD LUCK STEVE

  • Comment number 8.

    George, Have a word in Clare Balding's ear to make sure Steve and his team get as much coverage as possible. Clare obviously has more influence than you do!!! Good luck to Steve and all his team and it IS a pity this story is not available all across the BBC sites. More people would take comfort and inspiration from Steve if only they knew about him.

  • Comment number 9.

    Steve and Paul are going to beintervied by Sue barker before the start of the marathon tomorow Steve was allso interviewd by Colin Murray last suprissed how he along with Pat Nevin and Perry Groves knew about him

  • Comment number 10.

    Fantastic job Steve. Good luck for the rest of the journey.

    Hey George. Can you remind BBC Teletext that there's live Rugby League on Friday night's deserving of a mention on Page 301. The night's games are all too often being over-looked!!

  • Comment number 11.

    Amazing effort from 2 amazing guys, and the very best of luck for the marathon.

    £15,402.00 raised of £16,000.00 target

    help them hit the 16k target guys:)

  • Comment number 12.

    Steve Prescott as a player for St Helens was a wonderful player, but as a person undertaking this with such an illness is remarkable and inspirational. In a world or were celebrity is rewarded and steve will run past idiots from reality tv or people famous for nothing (usually slept with someone famous) on Sunday, what he is dealing with is true reality and its people like him who should be receiving the exposure. Good luck.

  • Comment number 13.

    Fantastic effort Steve. Great blog and good to see it on the main sport website, however i get a BBC error code when i click the fundraising link, so had to find it via Steve's own website.

  • Comment number 14.

    Well, what an amazing achievement by Steve Prescott and Paul Sculthorpe. I saw them both interviewed before the start and also (on the red button) after they had completed the marathon. Tremendous stuff. Neither of them looked like they had just done what they had done over the last 10 days. Incredible. And the sponsorship has broken the £16,000 barrier too. Pity it couldn't have been £116,000!! They would have deserved it for what they did, especially Steve Prescott.

    What an inspiration that man continues to be. I hope his scan tomorrow brings some positive news for him (in relative terms, obviously). Well done to both of them, and to the lads who helped get them across the Channel.

  • Comment number 15.

    Whenever I read about Steve Prescott, it makes me realise what a small fish I am. It's a very humbling thought. Fellahs like him really are made out of a different material from the rest of us.


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