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Sporting champions spearhead race to finish cancer

Sporting Champions Greg Rutherford (left) and Erin Kennedy (right) posing on a clifftop with the sea and beach behind them as they hold the custom trainers so you can see the words FINISH and CANCER on the soles.Two gold medal-winning sporting champions are leading a unique run to stamp a defiant message against cancer across 100 miles of British coastline.

Olympian Greg Rutherford MBE and Paralympian Erin Kennedy MBE have teamed up with The Institute of Cancer Research, London, to help the world-leading institute and charity to turn the tide against cancer.

Sending cancer a message across the British coastline 

Millions of Britons have participated in fundraising marathons, fun runs and walks but this time they will also be making a rallying cry against cancer, by running in specially developed trainers that imprint the words ‘FINISH’ and ‘CANCER’ with every stride.

Paralympic gold medal-winning coxswain rower Erin Kennedy and Olympic gold medal-winning long jumper Greg Rutherford will lead a dedicated team of runners who have teamed up with The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) to send cancer a message across 100 miles of British coastline.

They will imprint 167,000 footprints – each representing a life lost to cancer every year in the UK, and a life that could be saved if the ICR achieves its goal of finishing cancer.

The statement-stamping shoes have been created for the ICR to raise awareness of its world-leading research and to encourage support and donations. Its world-leading scientists and clinicians have made huge progress in understanding cancer’s biology and genetics, discovering cancer drugs and developing precision radiotherapy. The ICR’s mission is to make the discoveries that will defeat cancer, once and for all.

The most important race

Kennedy and Rutherford cited the race as the most important one they’ve ever taken part in – finishing cancer means as much to them as it does the ICR. Last year Kennedy was diagnosed with cancer and then received fifteen rounds of chemotherapy before undergoing a life-changing double mastectomy. Rutherford’s life has also been strongly affected by the disease. In 2008 he lost his beloved grandfather to cancer and in 2020 had his own testicular cancer scare. 

Erin Kennedy MBE, British Paralympic Coxswain, said: 

“Being treated for cancer is like running a race without knowing where the finish line is – it requires an incredible level of mental and physical strength and resilience. When I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer last year, I was tested to the limit in a way I never had been before.

“I was so fortunate to recently receive the all clear – but I know not everyone is this lucky. My experience has highlighted to me just how vital cancer research is, to ensure more people have the hope of a cure.

“Being involved in this campaign for The Institute of Cancer Research was a no-brainer – if I can raise awareness and funds to make a difference to even one person facing this awful disease, it would mean the world.”

Greg Rutherford MBE, retired British track and field athlete and Olympic gold medallist, said:  

“I am an extremely lucky man. I had a testicular cancer scare during lockdown which had a huge impact on my mental health because of the fear it caused due to my reluctance to get it checked. After eventually seeking help, I was given the all clear, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt relief like it. But it did make me revaluate everything. My grandfather died at 72 from stomach cancer and his father died at exactly the same age, and from the same type of cancer. I can’t put into words how important the ICR’s work is. It’s everything. Funding is essential to defeat this horrible, insidious disease.”

Increasing support for the ICR's life-saving research

Rutherford and Kennedy started the race at Happisburgh beach in Norfolk, where they ran three miles in the bespoke trainers to imprint FINISH CANCER across the coastline – the equivalent of around 5,000 footsteps. Now, the onus is on a cohort of researchers from the ICR and a team of the ICR’s supporters to continue the run across Britain’s beaches, leaving the powerful message in the sand in their wake.

When one person finishes their run, another begins theirs on a beach somewhere else. The six-week long race will ultimately see the words ‘FINISH CANCER’ imprinted 167,000 times across 100 miles of beach in England, Scotland and Wales. 

Professor Chris Bakal, Professor of Cancer Morphodynamics at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, studies the biological switches that cause cells to change shape, become cancerous and spread around the body, in order to find a way to control them through drugs or other therapies. Professor Bakal, who is a keen runner and a former national-level track and field athlete in his native Canada, said:

“For each of the 167,000 steps that Erin, Greg, our supporters and researchers take, representing the number of people who die of cancer each year, we hope to increase support for our work, and raise funds that will help us make steps in the lab and the clinic that save lives in the UK and around the world. It’s our hope, that with further support, we can help many more people survive cancer and live well with the disease.”

The ICR’s bespoke running shoes have been created by sustainable running shoe brand Bahé – a brand that launched in 2022 with the world’s first ‘grounded’ running shoe, designed to put the wearer back in electrical contact with the earth, such as when they are barefoot, allowing numerous health benefits. The design process was led and overseen by Bahé co-founder Alex Ward. 

Alex and his team spent more than 100 hours working assiduously on the custom soles, developing various prototypes before landing on the final design that delivered super-clear and legible sand prints of the words finish and cancer. The ICR worked on Bahé’s first style, a hybrid running shoe – the Recharge to customise the soles. 

Once all legs of the race have been completed, one pair of the bespoke shoes will be brought back to the ICR to be displayed, with the remaining shoes auctioned to raise funds to support its research.

Help the ICR reach the finishing line, so that more people will survive cancer.

Find out more and show your support


Chris Bakal breast cancer fundraising testicular cancer sports and challenges Development Greg Rutherford Erin Kennedy Finish Cancer Beach Coastline Development Office triple negative breast cancer
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