After the year Simon Gallo has had, you could forgive him for sitting out the London Marathon this Sunday.
The 61-year-old contracted Covid-19 in March this year and then contracted an autoimmune disease as a side effect, which ate away at his lower right leg to the point where it looked as though it may need to be amputated.
The lingering after-effects of Covid-19 mean he’s yet to regain his sense of taste and smell and struggles with breathlessness. The steroids he’s been taking to heal his leg, meanwhile, have caused him to gain two stone in weight. And he only started walking properly again last week.
But was he tempted to give this year a miss? ‘I’ve run the London Marathon for the past 24 years and I can’t conceive of not taking part,’ says the Suffolk-based 61-year-old. ‘I remember running my first London Marathon back in 1996. I got a place through the Diabetes UK as I’m type 1 diabetic. The sheer elation of the whole occasion and camaraderie of the entire field was incredible. Not until you’ve run the London Marathon do you truly understand.’
In many ways, Gallo is an unlikely runner. A self-described ‘plodder’, he says he started running at school ‘and his knees hurt from the word go’. In his 20s, he lived in a flat in Wapping and would look down from his balcony, a little hungover, at the marathon masses each year, never really thinking he’d one day be among them.
‘Back then, running a marathon was seen as being superhuman,’ he says.
He now thinks the real superheroes are the NHS doctors and nurses who cared for him, first at Ipswich Hospital and then at Aldeburgh Leg Clinic. ‘Everyone has seen what an unbelievable job the NHS is doing,’ he says. ‘I feel so totally grateful for the care I’ve received. And I also feel incredibly fortunate as there are many people suffering far worse than me.’
To show his thanks, Gallo is running his virtual London Marathon to raise funds for the Colchester & Ipswich Hospitals Charity and the NSPCC. He’ll be running around the grounds of Ipswich Hospital wearing scrubs.
‘It’s going to be more of a shuffle than a run’ says Gallo, ‘But I’m not one for excuses or moaning. They say that running is 50 per cent in your head, 50 per cent in your legs. For me this year, it’s going to have to be 100 per cent in the head.’
What message is he hoping to convey through his running? ‘I want everyone who is complaining to stop. There is always someone in a tougher situation than you. Do the right thing: wear a mask, practice social distancing. That’s the only way we’re going to get through this.’
You can still sponsor Simon here:
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