Mad Dog’s inspiration behind tackling brain cancer @bathhalf #bathhalf @LewisMoody7 @LewisMoodyFdn @BrainTumourOrg
Former England Rugby Captain Lewis Moody MBE will go down in history as one of England’s finest and most charismatic players. With two World Cup finals, two 6 Nations Championship winners medals, two Heineken Cup winners medals and seven Premiership winners medals, the ex-England and Bath stalwart is a true rugby legend. Since retiring, England’s most capped Flanker, has spent his time raising money for one of the UK’s brain cancer charities. Here, Lewis talks to InBath’s Craig Maplesden about the inspiration behind his Foundation, running the Bath Half as well as giving Bear Grylls a run for his money!
Many thanks for taking time out to talk to us. So you’re getting your running shoes out for this year’s Bath Half Marathon, supporting ’The Brain Tumour Charity’. Can you tell us a little about The Charity itself and why you have chosen to raise money for them?
I am indeed, this will be my 5th year. So, I have my own foundation, The Lewis Moody Foundation, which raises money for The Brain Tumour Charity. Last year we had 30 runners in the Bath Half, and raised £ 24,000.
Like any foundation, it started with a sad story. The year I retired, I met a young man called Joss Rowley-Stark, a talented young rugby player who was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.
I spent the next 18 months helping out with various bits and getting to know the family. In order to give them a break from dealing with doctors and the illness, I took them to Twickenham to watch England, do the hospitality thing as well as meet the team in the changing rooms – we had an awesome time. I then received a phone call two weeks later, from Joss’ Dad, to say that he had passed away.
It was down to the impact that Joss had made on our lives that we decided to focus our attention on helping raise money for one charity and make a real difference. My wife, Annie, and I wanted it to be a cancer charity that affected young families, whether it was the adult or child. It was four years ago that we spoke to The Brain Tumour Charity. Brain tumours are the least funded of all cancers in the UK and the biggest cancer killer for under 40’s and children. So for me, it was a no brainer. Since then, we have raised nearly £ 1 million which we are very proud of and should break through that later this year.
A friend of mine recently came back from Costa Rica with you, having battled rapids, mountains, jungles, spiders, snakes amongst others, to help raise £ 100,000 for The Charity. What will the money raised from challenges like this be put towards?
Well, we aimed to raise £ 75,000, but because of the incredible efforts of those that were involved we are now over the £ 100,000 mark. We had 20 normal people, from all walks of life, accept the challenge, everything from housewives to wealthy businessmen, Pharmaceutical Sales Reps to a Beef Farmer. No one knew each other, bar a couple, and to come together and get across Costa Rica, especially when the guide said it would be impossible to get 20 across was amazing.
Everyone self-funds their trip and the money raised then goes to The Charity, so it’s not a case of help fund my trip and whatever’s left goes to The Charity – they are fully immersed in it. So yes, we raised £ 110,000 which was remarkable.
As far as what the money goes towards, each year, we look at different aspects of The Charity. So this year it’s HeadSmart which is aimed at raising awareness to the public and professionals such as Doctors, GP’s and Opticians who have the greatest ability to see the symptoms fi rst. In essence, it is down to reducing diagnosis time for childhood brain tumours. It used to be 14 weeks on average, now we are down to 6.5 weeks, but our target is 4.
And can that make a huge difference to survival rates?
Sadly, a friend of ours was diagnosed and the speed of growth is ridiculous. It can go from nothing to the size of a melon in days and weeks, so the quicker it can be diagnosed is so important.
When you see what you and those guys put themselves through to raise money for The Charity, and how that helps others, does that inspire you to do more challenges?
Oh, I could do one every month but the planning, and the fact that we have busy lives, ristricts things slightly. To see the difference it makes to those doing the challenge is something. The group that went coast to coast in Costa Rica must have thought it was easy as it is only 400 km, but the mileage and distance doesn’t do service to the turrain. For example, It took 10 hours to do 14k because of going through the jungle avoiding snakes. Everyone starts off jokey and having a great laugh but by day three or four everyone just goes through it.
With that in mind, what challenges do you have planned for 2018 and how can readers keep in touch, donate or even participate in everything The Foundation does?
So genereally, they are quite small challenges we do. But the big challenge I organise each year is usually people I know – friends and colleagues. Later this year, we are going to the South Pole. There are other ways of getting involved though, especially in challenges across the UK like the Bath Half, race to the Stones, Lands End to John O’Groats bike ride that don’t take a week or 10 days to complete. They can find it all on the website www.thelewismoodyfoundation.org
You’re no stranger to training, and after a challenge like that one, I suppose a 13 miles run around the Bath area can’t be that terrifying. How much training have you been able to put in for the event?
No its not, but you want everything to be a challenge, so I set myself a target of under 1 hour 40 which will be a big ask – and then training, two weeks ago, I pulled my calf.
You’ve always taken your health and fi tness very seriously, how important do you feel keeping an active lifestyle is for all of us?
Its hugely important. You see the studies on childhood obesity and mental health, and I’m not talking about setting ridiculous challenges like I do, but an active life can improve wellbeing and makes me feel happy, it makes my day start better.. It’s enourmously important in this day and age where technology is so accessible and important – now i’m not saying technology isn’t very important, it is, but it is also important to put it down and get some fresh air.
I’ve recenlty started a programme that put Sixth Form Rugby into State Schools and a huge part of that is wellbeing. Making sure they get through school having enjoyed the experience, that they are looked after – coming out with qualifi cations but also talking about anxiety, depression etc trying to equipe them and open their eyes through rugby.
It’s great to see more and more people taking part in marathons, half-marathons and local park runs to keep fit as well as raise money for charities. If you had a chance to sit down with the PM or Sports Minister, what would you be asking them to change or put into place to get everyone active?
Good question. I think sport can play a major role in schools, helping children develop and grow but physically and their mental health. I witnessed something yesterday where a couple of our schools had a day with Russell Earnshaw, the England Under 18 coach. Firstly for the kids to work with an elite level coach and also for coaches to pick up on some ideas. What came out of it from me was that it, is generally coaches come up with the questions and offer thoughts on the coaching but a lot of the comments were from the kids, saying that how important being part of a team was for them, how they could lean on team mates for advice. Finally, I think we need to have the right coaches in schools. Some children are forced to do sports they don’t really enjoy. We need coaches that understand that kids just want to play. For me its about the environment and culture – let them enjoy it and they will continue to enjoy sport and it will then be passed on.
Other than keeping May 19th clear (I’m sure you will be attending the wedding of the year), what does 2018 hold for you?
So, we have the South Pole trip in November and December which will be a 2 week trip. I am also an Ambassador for the RFU’s Great War Commemorative Programme. In April, we will be going to the Menin Gate to lay a wreath to commemorate those that died. It is also the anniversary of Arthur Harrisons death, he was an England rugby player and the only former rugby player to be awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery.
No, No! I would do the Bear Grylls one though.
Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me. Best of luck for the Half Marathon and all the fantastic work you do for The Brain Tumour Charity. Is there a website that people can go to that gives more information about supporting The Charity?
Absolutely, if you go to my Foundation website it will have all the details of everyhting we are doing, plus how readers can get involved.