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Halliday defies pain to raise charity cash


Evening Standard - 21st December 2005

By Chris Jones


Simon 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 Marathon

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.” 


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