The “Forrest Gump of Herne Hill” has won a prestigious award for the money he’s raised for charity through completing extreme marathons, twenty years after he started running in memory of his father.
Gower Tan has officially received Cancer Research UK’s “Flame of Hope” award, which celebrates its most outstanding volunteers.
Gower started training to run his first marathon after his father passed away.
“I ran a lot when I was a kid,” he said. “I was the sporty one at school and all that.
“When I was thirteen I started smoking, amongst other things. I became unfit, and spend the next 25 years trying to stop.
“My father died of lung cancer in 2001 at 66, after being a lifelong smoker.
“I said, I’ve got to quit. I vowed to run the London marathon, which my dad had run – in the very first one, in 1981.
“I quit smoking, finally, and got fit again. I raised about two and a half thousand pounds for Cancer Research UK for the marathon.
“I remember crossing the line and swearing never to do anything so stupid again – and I’ve been doing it ever since.
The latest in Gower’s series of ever more crazy events was completing the Marathon des Sables, a six-day, 251km ultramarathon – roughly the distance of six regular marathons – across the Sahara Desert in southern Morocco. It is widely regarded as the most difficult foot race in the world.
“It’s going to be hard to top, because it was so extraordinarily hot. Only three out of eight of my sand brothers managed to get to the end.”
“But there’s an endless list of just amazing events and challenges out in the world. There’s no limit.
“To receive the Flame of Hope was very humbling, and just incredible to be amongst such committed supporters.
“There were all sorts of different ages and people – it was very very inspirational.”
Gower isn’t entirely sure where the “Forrest Gump of Herne Hill” nickname comes from.
“Before the Marathon des Sables I had a year’s worth of sheep-like hair,” he said. “I had it shaved off and live-streamed it. It was long enough that I could donate it to the Little Prince Trust.
“The nickname was probably more appropriate back then, when I looked more like Forrest Gump.”
“I’ve been in Herne Hill for 30 years,” he added, “and my kids were born here.
“I absolutely love it here. I’m a member of Dulwich runners and I do a lot with them. I’m also a vaccinator in Dulwich – I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve done. Probably hundreds.”
Gower is now gearing up to run the Boston marathon, the last of the six World Marathon Majors for the runner to complete.