MARATHON man Gower Tan, nicknamed ‘the Forrest Gump of Herne Hill’ has won a national award for his outstanding campaigning and fundraising for the charity.

Gower, 51, was presented with the Cancer Research UK ‘Flame of Hope’ award at a ceremony at Allington Castle in Kent.

The charity’s annual awards acknowledge remarkable efforts in fundraising and volunteering made by people from all walks of life.

Gower lost his father to lung cancer 20 years ago and the experience inspired him to try to make a change for future generations.

He began running and fundraising and has not stopped since.

He has clocked up numerous marathons around the world – sometimes dressed as a shoe – and most recently, he completed the ‘toughest foot race on earth’ – the Marathon des Sables, through the Sahara Desert.

The event was brutal in the extreme, with the highest-ever recorded temperatures and conditions that defeated half the participants.

Gower said: I’m incredibly honoured and humbled to receive a Cancer Research UK Flame of Hope Award.
“As a long-time supporter of the charity, I find volunteering and fundraising immensely rewarding – whether that’s campaigning in Parliament, marshalling at Race for Life, speaking at fundraising events or taking on sponsored challenges, including my recent journey through the Sahara, completing legendary Marathon des Sables!

“The continued progress to improve cancer outcomes through better prevention, earlier diagnosis and innovative and kinder treatments, fills me with enormous optimism.

“I’m incredibly proud to be part of the passionate, committed and united team of Cancer Research UK staff and volunteers – and hopefully can inspire others to help #BeatCancerSooner.”

As well as his fundraising, which has now topped £60,000, Gower became a Cancer Research UK Cancer Campaigns Ambassador almost a decade ago.

During this time, he has passionately challenged tobacco legislation with his father’s legacy at the forefront of his mind.

He helped Cancer Research UK successfully influence the Government to implement a policy to standardise tobacco packaging, which was introduced across the UK in May 2016.

He has also built valuable relationships with politicians including meeting with the then Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, as part of the ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’ campaign. As a result, Mr Hancock agreed that the NHS needed more investment and the Government needed to do more to increase early diagnosis targets.

He also developed a relationship with Labour’s Dulwich and West Norwood MP, Helen Hayes, which led to her tabling a parliamentary question for Cancer Research UK’s ‘Research at Risk’ campaign, calling for Government to support medical research charities in their time of need, due to the fall in funding during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Gower, who was nominated for the award by Lucy Dennis and Hollie White from Cancer Research UK, scooped the accolade in the ‘Uniting Communities’ category, beating off stiff competition from across the UK.

Lucy, ambassador and campaigns officer for the charity, said: “Gower is unbelievably passionate about the work Cancer Research UK does to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.

“His commitment to beating cancer sooner is felt across the charity, from fundraising right through to his political campaigning role. His dedication is inspiring. It’s an honour to work closely with him and I’m thrilled he is being recognised for his efforts with this award”.

Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “The past 18 months has shown us – more than ever – how fortunate we are to have the support of our incredible volunteers.

“The Flame of Hope awards give us the opportunity to celebrate and say thank you to our dedicated volunteers and supporters for the fantastic work they continue to do.

“One in two of us will get cancer in our lifetime*, and we can all play a part to help beat it. Cancer Research UK’s pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives but this has only been possible thanks to the commitment of our supporters and volunteers, without whom we would be unable to fund outstanding scientists, doctors and nurses.”

Lynn Daly, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for London, said: “These awards are our way of honouring incredible people like Gower who give their time freely to raise money for research and promote greater awareness of the disease, and yet ask for nothing in return.

“Every step we make towards beating cancer relies on every pound, every hour and every person.

“It’s thanks to the support of the fundraising public and our amazing army of volunteers that we can continue to make a real difference and bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.”

Cancer Research UK has celebrated the achievements of more than 1,500 people since launching its Flame of Hope awards in 2013.