He still holds the UK record for the fastest 400 metres, but last week former World Champion Iwan Thomas became the first Olympic sprinter to complete a gruelling 100-mile run.
RELATED: Exclusive: Iwan Thomas reflects on son Teddy's brave health battle and how fatherhood has changed him
“It was emotionally and physically the toughest, most brutal thing I’ve ever done,” the athlete, a speaker for The National Running Show tells HELLO! “My feet are covered in blisters and my right ankle is the size of an elephant’s foot, but I feel so proud.”
Iwan took part in the Centurion Running South Downs Way 100 race. Copyright: Phil Hill PH Balance
The 47-year-old runner, who reached the finishing line of the non-stop race - the Centurion Running South Downs Way 100 - in 29 hours 35 minutes, carried a reminder in his pocket of why he was tackling the greatest challenge of his life: a photo of his two-year-old son Teddy.
The little boy was only a few minutes old when he developed Group B Strep - an infection caused by streptococcal bacteria - and spent his first ten days battling for his life in intensive care. The condition, which is present in one in four pregnant women, can lead to meningitis, pneumonia and sepsis, but could be detected through a simple screening test, which Iwan is keen to promote.
“Seeing Teddy covered in tubes was by far the worst experience of my life,” he says. “He’s such a happy, lively boy now, and even though he’s been through a lot you wouldn’t know it. He runs everywhere, just like me, yet because of his condition still suffers for repeated infections.
The star tackled the challenge in honour of his son Teddy. Copyright: Phil Hill PH Balance
“He was my inspiration for this run,” continues Iwan. “When the going got tough, I took out his picture and read the words I’d written on the back: ‘For those families less fortunate.’
“So many families tell me they weren’t as lucky with their children born with the condition, and it breaks my heart. So if I can shine a light on this infection that claims the lives of so many young children then the pain of what I endured was 100% worth it.”
Recalling the highs and lows of the run of his life, Iwan, who raised £24k for the charity Group B Strep Support, says: “It was sweltering hot during the day and when I ran through the night, I started to hallucinate. My body was finished after 20 miles. I’m not built for long distance, whereas the ultra-runners, who are light and powered like machines, are a different breed. Yet because of the heat, many of them dropped out.
Iwan has revealed Teddy was his inspiration. Copyright: Phil Hill PH Balance
“It was a mental game for me and I dug deep,” he continues. “Teddy’s my inspiration to be the best I can; I’d never quit when it comes to my son. Every step of those 100 miles hurt, but it was a step closer to me getting home to see him.”
However, when he reached the 48-mile mark, Iwan received some shattering news: little Teddy had been admitted to hospital with another infection.
“I had to decide whether to quit the race or carry on,” he says. “My partner persuaded me to finish the race for Teddy.”
Iwan completed the last leg of his journey in a blaze of glory on a 400-metre track.
“As soon as the adrenalin stopped, I fell to the floor and was carried to the car,” he recalls. “I said, ‘Never again!’ but who knows? If I’ve helped save even one child, it was worth it.”
To donate to Group B Strep Support go to: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/gbssiwanthomas