Intrepid television presenter Jeff Stelling completed his amazing walking challenge for Prostate Cancer UK on Friday.
Teaming up with the leading men’s health organisation, the long-standing Soccer Saturday host powered up the final stretch to Newcastle United’s St James’ Park, a fortnight and 400 miles after setting off from Exeter City’s St James Park, on June 2, taking in Fleetwood Town on the way.
Fund-raising for the epic March for Men smashed through the £300,000 barrier on the final day, with Stelling on course to hit his half a million pound target once overall funds are combined after the event. Jeff has walked 15 marathons in 15 days from the home of the Grecians to the home of the Magpies – and he was joined by around 650 walkers during his unforgettable amble.
On the final day Stelling and co left Durham County Cricket Club and meandered across the North East, stopping off at Sunderland AFC and Gateshead FC before ending at the home of the Championship winners.
Stelling was joined on the final leg by former Arsenal, Middlesbrough and England striker Paul Merson with ex-England cricket star – and Black Cats fan - Paul Collingwood also joining the fray at his home cricket club. Sunderland legends Jimmy Montgomery and Gary Bennett also walked the final marathon.
During a star-studded 15 days Stelling also met World Cup winning England goalkeeper Gordon Banks, Liverpool legends Phil Thompson, Mark Lawrenson, Robbie Fowler and Jamie Carragher and Manchester footballing royalty Denis Law and Mike Summerbee, two men affected by prostate cancer.
There were many other familiar faces plodding alongside the television favourite as he headed north from Devon, including his fellow pundits from Soccer Saturday, Charlie Nicholas, Matt Le Tissier and the man who coined the phrase of ‘Unbelievable Jeff’, the effervescent Chris Kamara. Former rugby league stars Kevin Sinfield, Brian Carney, Barrie McDermott and Phil Clarke also marched alongside Sky reporter Bill Arthur, a long-time friend and colleague of Stelling, and a man affected by prostate cancer.
And, throughout the 15 days, there were also men and families affected by a disease that one in eight men in the UK will develop, including 52-year-old Kevin Webber, a man with terminal prostate cancer. Webber, an AFC Wimbledon season-ticket holder from Epsom walked 12 of the 15 days and when away from the event due to a family emergency, he managed to RUN three marathons.
Fresh from raising £420,000 after walking 10 marathons in 10 days from his beloved Hartlepool United to Wembley last year, Stelling, 62, upped the ante this time round with an even bigger challenge for the leading men’s health charity.
Jeff’s journey saw him visit more than 40 football clubs, heading up the west of England via Bristol and Stoke and through the northern footballing hotbeds of Merseyside and Manchester, before cutting across the country and ending at the home of Championship high flyers Newcastle. Of course, his boyhood club, Hartlepool United was en route and he started the final day at Durham County Cricket Club.
The mega event is part of Prostate Cancer UK’s wider walking programme, March for Men, which includes a trio of Local Walks across Father’s Day weekend, in London on June 17th and Leeds and Glasgow 24 hours later. The charity will also be encouraging supporters to hold their own marches to try and raise £1 million through walking in 2017.
More than 1,700 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year in the North East and the money raised will have a huge impact on the lives of those affected by the disease and will help bring us one step closer to stopping prostate cancer being a killer.
Jeff said: “I’m immensely proud to have completed this challenge for Prostate Cancer UK, a charity incredibly close to my heart.
“This has been an amazing journey, all the way from Exeter City to Newcastle United and the raucous welcome from the Geordie supporters as I made the final steps into St James’ Park is something I’ll never forget.
“It wasn’t just the Geordies either. I’ve had some incredible support during my entire journey. For 400 miles I’ve walked with and met some incredible and inspiring people, people young and old affected by this horrible disease; people that have shrugged off their problems to join me and support this wonderful charity.
“For two years and more than 660 miles we’ve raised vital awareness of a disease that kills one man an hour in the UK and crucial money to help make a difference in diagnosis and care. I’m exhausted but elated right now and want to thank everyone that has supported me through this project. Believe me, this will make a massive difference to the lives of men and their loved ones.”
Prostate Cancer UK Chief Executive Angela Culhane, who completed the final leg and more than 80 miles across three days of this year’s March for Men, said: “We salute Jeff for his incredible efforts over the past fortnight; it was a truly unbelievable achievement.
“Up hills, down dales, along canal paths, and dual carriageways and past several iconic landmarks on our way from Exeter to Newcastle it’s been an exhausting but exhilarating 15 days.
“Once again Jeff and each and every person who has walked alongside him have pushed themselves and raised a huge amount of awareness not to mention vital funds in the fight against this deadly disease.
“We’ve been to more than 40 sporting stadia and teamed up with some real legends. We’ve also met some truly inspiring people along the way, including men living with prostate cancer and families affected by this disease. The fact these amazing people, and also those not affected by the disease but keen to support us, were able to stroll side by side with household names from sport, show business and politics once again established this as a charity walk like no other.
“Ignoring prostate cancer will not beat it. But Jeff’s epic efforts continue to wake men up to the need to take action. Thanks to the money raised to date, we can fund more ground-breaking research to fight back against the disease. It will also help us provide dedicated support and information to men and their families and make prostate cancer a disease the next generation of men need not fear.
“On behalf of Prostate Cancer UK and everyone affected by this disease, I say a huge thank you.”