Neil Featherby: Like father like son as Tom faces Antarctic challenge

PUBLISHED: 10:00 02 August 2019 | UPDATED: 10:48 02 August 2019

When in Rome - Tom Dilrew on marathon duty Picture: Tom Dilrew

When in Rome - Tom Dilrew on marathon duty Picture: Tom Dilrew


“It was your fault,” said old friend David Dilrew, completely out of the blue, over lunch a couple of weeks ago.

Tom Dilrew counting them down in Cape Town Picture: Tom DilrewTom Dilrew counting them down in Cape Town Picture: Tom Dilrew

"What was my fault?" I replied.

"Can you remember that day when we had to sprint down Prince of Wales Road in Norwich so as to not miss the train going to London?"

"Yes, of course, I can. You were like a fish out of water with your mouth wide open desperately trying to suck in air and I said you need to do something about your level of fitness before it's too late."

Well, that he did, and many marathons completed around the world later, his then young son Tom was so inspired that four years ago, at the age of 26, made it his quest to not only run marathons like his father but to run one in all seven continents. At the same time he raised money for seven different causes, including Norfolk-based charities Nelson's Journey and the Community Sports Foundation.

Tom Dilrew on the run in Cape Town Picture: Tom DilrewTom Dilrew on the run in Cape Town Picture: Tom Dilrew

"I still don't see how it is my fault," I added.

"Okay, maybe not your fault, but as you inspired me to take up running, this action is what led to Tom also being inspired to doing this challenge," replied David very proudly.

With that, I just shrugged my shoulders, but if I'm honest, I was rather pleased with his comments.

It has been a really awesome effort by Tom, who has completed marathons in Rome, Sydney, Rio de Janeiro, Toronto, Cape Town (where he ran a PB of 3:26) and Singapore - and now has just one more to tick off to complete his seven in seven challenge.

Dad David Dilrew on a pushbike beside Tom in Toronto Picture: Tim DilrewDad David Dilrew on a pushbike beside Tom in Toronto Picture: Tim Dilrew

You know what they say about leaving the best until last? On this occasion, I think it's more of a case of leaving the hardest until last as his next 26.2-mile challenge will hopefully be lining up to take part in the Antarctic Ice Marathon in December 2020.

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Looking back on his previous six marathons who could argue with the fact that he certainly has picked out some fantastic and beautiful places to run in, along with of course all the atmosphere which goes with these big city events.

But when it comes to running in the Antartic, the only other people he will see are the other runners and, of course, any official who might be out on the course.

The race information says not to expect to see even a penguin, with it being so far south.

In a nutshell, it will mean running 42.2km on snow and ice around the foothills of the Ellsworth Mountains, albeit still 700 metres above sea level. Just to add to the difficulty, all competitors can also expect to battle against strong winds from the South Pole with a windchill temperature of -20C.

Tom grew up in Hellesdon and now lives in Richmond, Surrey, but returns to Norfolk twice each month to visit family, take part in Parkruns around the county and, of course, to watch his beloved Norwich City, a club he represented as a youth.

Up to now he has completely self-funded all his efforts, which has cost him several thousands of pounds, but with this next one - the world's most southerly marathon - costing £14,000 just to enter, sponsorship has been coming in from so many people. It has helped him meet some of these costs (£8,000 so far), and with 16 months still to go I am pretty sure he will also take his charity fund-raising totals to a pretty amazing figure.

Tom has produced a super short three-minute film and his emotional opening words really do sum up and demonstrate just how running can be used to help people in so many ways.

"Running is the perfect remedy for a lot of people, it allows us to demonstrate the power to overcome our physical pains, battle against mental health issues and show strength after the loss of our loved ones," he says. "For me, personally, running is the ultimate escape, it provides me with a headspace in which all stress melts away and I find a sense of peace. I have always found something innately satisfying about moving forward, it feels like I am breaking free from all negativity and at that moment I am liberated from all of life's worries."

As for the superb setting, if you didn't know, it was all filmed in Horsford woods - you could be forgiven for thinking it was in Canada.

If you would like to know more about Tom's challenge or indeed help him in his quest, then please check out the following:

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