On Sunday at approximately 4.22pm, Kevin Webber will join the likes of Jurgen Klopp and Manuel Pellegrini on the hallowed Wembley turf at this year’s Capital One Cup Final.Diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in 2014, Kevin has since run two marathons to raise funds for Prostate Cancer UK and is now training for the epic, trans-Sarahan Marathon Des Sables in April – billing it as his marathon Des Sables “swansong”.
As the Official Charity Partner of The Football League, Prostate Cancer UK invited Kevin as their guest of honour at the Capital One Cup Final and now Kevin will be part of a Presentation Party that welcomes the stars of Liverpool and Manchester City onto the Wembley pitch this Sunday.
Four years after deciding to take up running again in his forties, Kevin had run six marathons and was in training for the Brighton Marathon, with high hopes to beat his PB of 3hrs 40mins. He ran with his friend, Jim, at night to minimise any disruption to their families, covering 40 miles between 9pm and 4am on one occasion.
But in September 2014, Kevin began to feel unwell. "I knew that something was wrong with me but didn’t know what," he recalled. "I didn't tell anyone until the doctors confirmed what I had and how bad it was."
The diagnosis came on 6th November: Kevin had advanced prostate cancer and was given just a couple of years to live. He was only 49 years old.
"I told Jim on a training run in the dark," Kevin added. "I think we both cried for much of the way round."
Digging deep to cross the line
Kevin immediately started chemotherapy and realised the Brighton Marathon would fall during his 14th week of treatment. But he was determined to complete the event and Jim pledged to run at Kevin’s pace for the duration, willingly sacrificing his dream of finishing in less than four hours.
They continued training together right up until race day and Kevin crossed the line at an incredible 4hrs and 36mins.
"It was the hardest, slowest and most emotional marathon I have ever run, but I did it," Kevin said. "I don't think I have ever dug as deep as I did in the last hour. But with the support, the money I was raising, and the fear of letting anyone down, I wanted to show other men who have this dreadful disease that – despite everything – sometimes you can do things if you don't give up, no matter how hard it is.
"I know from the Prostate Cancer UK online forum that there are hundreds of people in their own way doing their own ’marathons’ every day, struggling for sometimes the most basic of needs. And what they do is way beyond what I achieved with this marathon.
"They also frequently have the support of friends and family getting them through each day just like I did on race day. They are the real heroes but get no praise for what they do.”
Last big race across the Sahara
Following that astonishing performance, Kevin went on to run the London Marathon just two weeks later and is now training for the epic Marathon Des Sables in April. Calling it his last big race, the 150-mile unsupported run across the Sahara requires Kevin to carry everything he needs on his back.
“On the hardest day, you effectively climb the height of Snowdon three times over, only this will be over mountains and sand dunes in temperatures approaching 50 degrees," said Kevin, who recently finished a 66-mile race and has been cross-country skiing in Canada as part of his preparations.
"Training to date has been tough, and certainly isn’t helped by my situation, but I’ll do my best to be as fit as possible for this event."
In the meantime, Kevin’s looking forward to representing Prostate Cancer UK, the Official Charity Partner of The Football League.
As guest of honour at the Capital One Cup Final this weekend he’ll be part of a Presentation Party that includes Greg Clarke, Chairman of The Football League, Andy Williamson OBE, Chief Operating Officer at The Football League and Chris Newkirk, Head of International at Capital One.
And completing the party Kevin will be bringing his own VIP along, too.
"My son, Ben, is celebrating his 16th birthday the same day," he said. "I hope the day will give Ben a great memory of him and me when I am no longer here. And of course it will also help raise my profile, which in turn will hopefully increase the money I’m able to raise for Prostate Cancer UK through my challenges."
To support Kevin’s fundraising effort in his marathon Des Sables swansong, you can donate by clicking here.