Halliday, whose glittering rugby career was ended by serious injury, will be
pounding the streets on Christmas Day, defying the pain of his fused ankle in
preparation for the Bath Half
Given that Halliday, a double
Grand Slam winner and member of the 1991 England World Cup final team, was
reduced to relying on pain killers just to make walking bearable, his
commitment to the marathon on 19 March is remarkable.
Halliday’s motivation revolves
around a double tragedy that made the 45-year-old take a long look at his own
life. In February last year, 15-year-old Sebastian English suddenly collapsed
and died of an undiagnosed heart condition whilst playing rugby for Haslemere
RFC. It was 10 years after the same thing happened to Halliday’s friend
Howard, whilst training for his local club Esher. Halliday, the club coach at
the time, was there when he died.
“It is an appalling fact that,
every week in this country, eight young and apparently fit people die of
unexplained heart failure,” said Halliday. “I will be running the marathon in
Sebastian’s name for Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY). It’s a charity which
provides specialist screening services and counselling for bereaved families.
There have been a number of
high-profile incidents of sudden death syndrome. Daniel Yorath, 15, son of
Wales legend Terry and brother of presenter Gabby Logan, died playing in the
garden with his father; Robert Hayley, a 17-year-old rower, died watching
television shortly after helping Steve Redgrave win a senior competition; and
Cameroon football star Marc-Vivien Foe collapsed, without warning, on the
field during a Confederations Cup tie in France.
Halliday is still heavily
involved in English rugby, holding a place in the Rugby Football Union council
and being part of Club England which oversees the top end of the game. This
has helped initiate a screening process for the RFU Elite Academy players and
will be spread to regional centres as well.
However, screening is costly
and that is why Halliday is determined to raise cash as well as the charity’s
profile over the coming months.
Halliday will have his own
children, Sophie (16) and Alexander (13), screened in 2006 and admits it is
something he should already have insisted upon.
He added: “This race is a big
personal challenge and actually doing something sporting has been amazing.
“When I was beginning my
international career in 1983, I dislocated my left ankle. Various brilliant
doctors and physios not only put me back together again, but allowed me to
resume playing at the highest level until my retirement in 1992.
“Therefore, it was difficult
to hear a teacher saying that my son was sad that, even though his father had
played rugby for England, he could not kick a ball around with him in the
garden. Now, as a result of getting ready for the marathon, I have started
playing tennis and squash with my children. It’s been a huge thing for me.”