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Top cancer researcher’s charity cycle in memory of his colleague

Pioneering cancer researcher Professor Richard Marais will undertake a 112-mile cycle challenge to raise funds in memory of Professor Chris Marshall – an outstanding and inspirational scientist whose work led to the development of new cancer treatments.

Professor Richard Marais (left) trains for the Fred Whitton Challenge in 2016, to raise funds in memory of Professor Chris Marshall (right)

Professor Marshall, former Director of Research at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, sadly died from colorectal cancer in 2015.

We caught up with Professor Marais during his busy training schedule to find out what drove him to take part in this incredible bike race.

Tell us about your fundraising challenge.

The ride is a one-day, 112-mile sportive around the Lake District starting in Grasmere and taking in the climbs of Kirkstone, Honister, Newlands, Whinlatter, Hardknott and Wrynose passes.

Some of the passes are not really built for cyclists with gradients of a staggering 30%. This is tough uphill but also makes for a risky descent – the gradient coupled with tricky road surfaces and unpredictable British weather makes for an unforgettable experience.

I completed the ride on a whim last year. Having not trained as hard as I should I struggled with some of the climbs and the sheer endurance required getting around. This year I wanted to do the ride justice and so I set myself the challenge of completing it in honour of Chris, who was an excellent cyclist. The thought of Chris on my wheel has really spurred on my training this year.

What made you decide to take on this challenge?

I am fundraising in memory of Professor Chris Marshall, an outstanding scientist who devoted his life to studying cancer.

Chris was also a talented cyclist who excelled on the hills, so the Fred Whitton is an appropriate challenge to tackle.

I was privileged to spend many years working with Chris at the ICR. His death is a tremendous loss to the cancer research community. Chris was a fantastic scientist, an excellent colleague, a very generous man and a much-loved friend.

Why did you choose to fundraise for the ICR and Cancer Research UK?

Looking back on my 19 years at the ICR, I have many fond memories and a deep respect for my colleagues and their research. During this time, Chris’ and my research was funded by Cancer Research UK, so for me these were obvious causes to fundraise for.

Chris established an international reputation for his research into tumour cell signalling, and this paved the way for two new cancer drugs to be approved for widespread use in patient treatment today. He had a passionate belief in the need to translate the findings of basic cancer research into patient benefit, and he is a tremendous loss to the field.

How are you coping with the training?

Not too bad! I’ve ridden through snow, sleet, hail and rain so far. I’ve had a lot of early starts and tough climbs. I have a pretty brutal training regime and sometimes it is difficult to find the energy, but I am determined to keep it up over the last push before the ride.

How can people support you?

I’m hoping to raise £5,000 so please give as much as you can. Every donation that comes through makes the training a little easier. You can donate online here.

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