Iwan Thomas is representing the south in the JustTextGiving North vs. South challenge, but why's the ex-olympian taking to the web to win a running race?
MBE-awarded former Olympian and 400m UK record holder Iwan Thomas is facing one of his toughest ever challenges. In a bid to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support, he’s taking on Mel C and her team of runners for the JustTextGiving North vs. South challenge at the Bupa Great South Run.
Why so tough? Because he may be faster, but this is a battle that looks to be won or lost online. We caught up with Iwan to see how he’s preparing, what his tips are, and why Mel C’s such a worthy foe.
“I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in,” he tells us. “The Great South Run is a good 10 miles and – while I’m not the best long distance runner – I’m getting better and better. It’s always a great challenge.”
Iwan’s no stranger to the Great South Run, having run it several times in the past, but this marks the first time he’ll be running as a fundraising team, and leading it too. “It’s usually an individual challenge, so being the captain of a team is a bit different. But it’s great – it’s amazing to hear all my team members’ stories, and to learn why they’re running.
“Even though we all do our own race, I do feel quite proud to be a part of a team, and not just the captain. There’s definitely a lot of team spirit going on.
“We’ve been keeping in touch on Twitter quite regularly,” says Iwan, “and sending messages of support to each other. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing everyone at the run and having a sit down and a nice cup of tea before the run.”
Winning the race online
But Iwan’s not just using Twitter to stay in touch with his team. With over 80,000 followers, there’s plenty of room to shout about his JustTextGiving code and his chosen charity, Macmillan Cancer Support, for whom he’s an ambassador:
“Strangers from Twitter keep donating to me, which just goes to show the power of social media. I’ve been posting up my JustTextGiving code so it’s easy for people to just text in a quick donation. I’ll also be wearing my vest with pride on race day, and I’ll be sure to get my JustTextGiving code on it too.
“The good thing about Twitter that it’s so instant, so it’s good for raising awareness. It’s definitely been useful to help raise funds, and for a laugh too. All I do is just talk nonsense on it, but people really seem to enjoy it!”
JustTextGiving donations winging their way to Iwan’s charity only serve to fill him with confidence about the North Vs South challenge, which is probably just as well: as the fundraising totals clock up and the Great South Run approaches, the rivalry between Iwan and Mel C is also reaching boiling point.
“It’s a race of two halves: one that’s run on foot and one that takes place in the world of social media.”
Recently, Iwan went up to Gateshead ahead of the Great North Run for a race against Mel C. So who was faster? “It’s always great to have a bit of banter and rivalry with Mel C; she’s a fantastic athlete. She’s an absolute machine! I’m only just faster than her – at the North Run I finished before her, but it was quite close and we were only 3-5 minutes apart.”
“When it comes to the physical running, I think I’ve got the edge, but for the fundraising, I think she might have it thanks to her high profile,” he says.
It’s a race of two halves, then: one that’s run on foot and one that takes place in the world of social media and JustTextGiving. Even though Iwan’s concerned that Mel might have the latter all sewn up, he’s sure that the home advantage will soon come into play…
“They’ve done the Great North Run and had a lot of buzz going for that, so I’m hoping that when it comes to our run down south we can get a similar response. Fingers crossed we’ll get the sponsorships and the money rolling in!”
And as for the actual running? Iwan left us with one helpful hint for anyone heading down for the Great South Run: “Try and save a bit for the last 2 miles!”
Ready, set, go… If you want to show your support for Iwan and the South, text ‘IWAN74 £3′ to 70070. Messages are free on any UK network, and you can swap that £3 out for £1, £2, £4, £5 or even £10.