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Athletes train for Rock ‘Everest charity challenge’

Pic by Eyleen Gomez

A team of five athletes will undertake the ‘Everest Challenge’ next Saturday, making their way up the Rock 25 times collectively while pulling a tyre behind them, all in aid of Cancer Relief Gibraltar.

By the end they will have reached a cumulative elevation of around 9,000m, surpassing that of Mount Everest which stands at 8,849m.

The idea is the brainchild of cancer survivor Simon Morgan who last year ran, cycled or swam 1,000km all while undergoing chemotherapy for bladder cancer, again in aid of Cancer Relief.

This time his friends, Matt Coulthard, Gary Evans, Brian Fletcher and Jock Alan Stevenson, are taking part in a challenge with him and will form a relay with each athlete making the trip five times.

“It’s going to be a killer,” said Mr Morgan.

The group will head off at 9am from the Fire Station at the bottom of the Cable Car and make their way up the Rock Hotel hill towards Mount Alvernia, into the Nature Reserve, by Jew’s Gate, taking a right at the Queen’s lookout before passing St Michael’s Caves and eventually reaching their destination of the cable car at the top of the Rock. It will take them 55 minutes each time taking it slow and easy.

Only the elevation going up counts towards their goal so the team are hoping they can rally around supporters who will take them back down to the start line of each repetition at the bottom of Engineer Road.

It is expected it will take them seven hours to complete if they get a lift if not it will take eight to nine hours.

This isn’t even the biggest challenge facing Mr Morgan this year as next month he aims to climb Kilimanjaro with Mr Stevenson.

“Last year when I was receiving chemo I gave myself a goal in the future to give myself something to aim for and I dug deep into my own pockets to pay for the trip myself and that meant the money raised will go straight to the charity,” he said.

“It gave me something to save for, strive for and it was good for my mental wellbeing.”

He reflects that both the training he does and the help he has had from the Cancer Relief Centre have been great for his mental health.

“The women up there are absolute angels,” he said.

“When I said to them I was having a little bit of a wobble they sorted out counselling for me. Because it is scary stuff when you are faced with your own mortality and it is not great,” added the father of two teenage daughters, Cristina and Isabel.

He recalls how much the Cancer Relief Centre supported him while he was receiving treatment, how he could talk to the people there even if it was just having a cup of tea and a chat.

While he was being strong for his wife Michelle and his two daughters, attending the centre gave him a chance to step away from the role of brave, protective father and husband and allowed him to be what he was, a person fighting cancer.

He also noted that the centre is there for family members too and that this was also very valuable.

As he fought cancer for the second time he noticed that he was angry and thinking ‘why me’, as he never smoked and has always led a healthy, active life.

“But, you begin to realise that cancer is indiscriminate and it doesn’t care how old you are, how healthy your lifestyle is. Statistically you or one of your family members or someone close to you is going to get it,” he said.

“So anything I can give back to these guys [Cancer Relief Gibraltar] to prepare for the next person or to talk about my experience to hopefully enlighten and encourage other people to go get help if they need it then that is what I want to do. To give something back.”

As he has been training for the event Mr Morgan has been dragging the tyre up the Rock to O’Hara’s battery.

“I thought of the tyre because I wanted it to be something more than just a backpack that will hurt too much but rather something I could drag which would be better for my legs,” he said as both of his knees are currently strapped up with supports.

“I was using a tyre down at the Wellington Front Box Club as part of my training and I just thought why not drag it up the Rock as part of my training for Kilimanjaro.”

“Then I thought why not make the training part of the fundraising for Kilimanjaro and do two events in one,” he added.

While both challenges will be tough Mr Morgan repeatedly states that his inspiration are the “girls at the Centre and what they do”.

‘They give me inspiration, because I want to help them and all the other patients that go there.”

Mr Morgan goes for his next test on February 20, shortly before he leaves for Tanzania on February 24 and when he is due to start on the assent on the 26th. This challenge will take eight days.

“I will always be looking over my shoulder and on constant tests. It is just the way it is. I was very fortunate they caught it early,” he said.

Supporting the team already are various individuals and Chris Montegriffo from the Wellington Front Boxing Club, Isola’s law firm as well as NatWest.

To support Mr Morgan and team go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/matt-coulthard3

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