A determined dad-of-two rose to the challenge of the ultimate endurance and fitness test – completing a staggering 140 miles of swimming, cycling and running in just one day in aid of St Catherine’s.
Leyland family man Rowan Lees, 45, was keen to take on the gruelling Ironman UK challenge before he reached the age of 50, admitting that he ‘didn’t want any regrets’ that the chance had passed him by.
Rowan, who lives in Farington Moss with his wife Laura and children Harrison, 10, and Maisie, eight, also wanted to test his limits after an operation forced him to quit exercising for a short time.
After hearing about the ‘amazing support’ offered to local families by St Catherine’s in Lostock Hall, Rowan decided to dedicate his efforts to the charity. The incredible feat included a 2.4-mile swim in Pennington Flash, followed by a 112-mile bike ride to the Macron Stadium in Bolton, and a 26.2-mile run into Bolton city centre.
He says: “I managed to complete Ironman UK in just under 14 hours, and crossing the finish line was one of the most amazing, surreal and emotional moments I’ve ever experienced.
“After six months of training and thinking I was fairly well prepared, it was only when I reached about 50 miles into the bike course that I realised I’d completely underestimated the scale of what I was trying to achieve!
“I eventually arrived at the Macron Stadium after 7 hours and 20 minutes on the bike with the sun beginning to beat down, as I set out on the marathon run into Bolton.
“I nearly gave a up a few times but the immense support from family, friends and spectators all helped to keep me moving forward when it was incredibly tough.”
With support from his loved ones and workmates at James Hall & Co Ltd in Preston, where he works as a Store Development Project Manager, Rowan has raised more than £2,400 for the hospice.
It costs £5.2million to run the charity each year, with £3.5million of that sum being generated through fundraising.
“St Catherine’s was an obvious choice for me, and I just hope my efforts go some way to help,” Rowan says. “It’s quite eye-opening when you talk to people and hear of how many families have been helped by the great work of the hospice.”
Rowan first became interested in triathlons after running the Preston Guild marathon in 2012, progressing to a half-Ironman in 2014.
“There was always a niggle at the back of my mind about how amazing but highly unlikely it would be to do a full Ironman one day,” he adds. “I also remember a colleague saying he’d regretted not doing Ironman before turning 50.
“But everything took a backseat as the kids developed their own interests, until I had to have a hernia op in October last year. It was during my recovery I became so frustrated at not being able to do anything that I decided to sign up for the Manchester marathon in April this year. Then I just thought ‘why not carry on the training and do Ironman UK in July?’
And it seems Rowan’s enthusiasm is catching, as he explains: “My son Harrison did his first triathlon in St Annes in May, and I’ve got him and my daughter Maisie signed up to do another in Fleetwood in September – she can’t wait!”
St Catherine’s fundraiser Emma Jacovelli says: “Wow – what a truly astounding achievement! We’re so impressed by the lengths Rowan has gone to for this challenge, and we’re so grateful that he chose to make his efforts count for St Catherine’s.
“It’s brilliant to hear that his children have been inspired by his determination and hard work as well – I’m sure we’ll be hearing much more about this family’s achievements for many years to come!
“We’d like to say a huge ‘well done’ to Rowan, and thank him for his incredible support of the hospice.”