In 2012, Matt and Debbie Gaut’s son Harry was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. After three years of treatment, they were told it had developed into acute myeloid leukemia, with the only chance of recovery coming from a stem cell transplant. Although Harry received the transplant, he developed severe symptoms of graft-versus-host disease and in 2016, eight days after his sixth birthday, he passed away.
Matt, who lives in Caterham, said:
“After Harry died, I knew I wanted to do something worthwhile in his name. I was introduced to the charity Cure Leukemia by Harry’s godfather Kevin Hoskins, who knew the CEO, James McLaughlin, and we started raising money for them by holding events such as sponsored runs and an annual golf day at Surrey National Golf Club.”
In 2022, Matt completed the London to Paris bike ride – choosing to run the leg from Greenwich to Folkestone before cycling the rest of the route – which gave him his next idea: ‘Le Big Run 2 Paris’.
“I emailed James with the proposal that I would run the entire way from London to Paris,” said Matt. “I knew I would need five days instead of the four days the cyclists take, and I was aiming to raise £100,000 for the charity.”
Matt assembled his support team: brother Simon and niece Molly, who flew in from Australia, physio Rhian and friends Richard Stefanski, Paul Reader and Harry’s godfather Kevin. The four men took turns running alongside Matt, while Molly helped with the logistics of the challenge.
The group set off from Greenwich Park on the evening of Tuesday, 6 June; one day before the official cycle race began. Matt ran through the night, and on Wednesday afternoon they reached Folkestone. Once in Calais, he set off again, adding on an extra run to balance out the miles they’d spent on the train in the Channel Tunnel!
Matt’s 242-mile epic run (equivalent to nine marathons), which took him via Abbeville and Beauvais, saw Matt taking 449,555 steps, burning 23,000 calories and hitting his fundraising target of £100k just before he reached the finish.
When Matt and his crew reached the Eiffel Tower on 11 June, he was cheered across the line by wife Debbie and around 160 cyclists who had also undergone the journey on behalf of Cure Leukaemia:
“Everybody was going bananas as we ran past them: it was absolutely incredible!”
All the money Matt has raised is going to help Cure Leukaemia launch a paediatric trials network, which will connect children with potentially life-saving treatments.
Matt and his wife Debbie, who also have son Oliver, 10, say Harry was a happy, loving and brave little boy, who never complained about his illness:
“We are so very proud of him. Cure Leukaemia’s CEO James said that the paediatric trials network will be Harry’s legacy, which is a wonderful thing for us to have.”
Matt’s total now stands at £103,000 and you can still donate: visit justgiving.com/campaign/LeBigRun2Paris.