A son will be be honouring his father's memory by undertaking a monumental challenge - running six half marathons in the Rugby Six Nations countries.

Thomas Relph, from Bolton,  is gearing up for the challenge inspired by his dad's love for rugby, and their shared enjoyment of the Six Nations at Twickenham.

The 37-year-old Bolton School old boy will be taking on the challenge to raise funds for The Christie Charity.

In July last year, Thomas'' dad, Mark Relph, died aged just 66.

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Working in the family business as a funeral director since the age of 16, Mark was first diagnosed with colorectal cancer in January 2021 and underwent a number of surgeries, combined with chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

In October of the same year Mark had major surgery to remove the cancer and was given the all-clear towards the end of 2022.

However, the cancer returned at the start of 2023 and Mark had further chemotherapy in the July until he had a stroke and cardiac arrests and sadly died aged 66.  

Thomas works in land and property for Russell Homes and Russell WBHO and through his recommendations they have given a Christmas donation to The Christie Charity for the last two years in memory of Mark.

Thomas himself wanted to do something to honour his dad’s memory in a unique and inspiring way.

He said: “Since Dad was diagnosed with cancer, I always wanted to do something to try and raise some money for The Christie Charity, but COVID-19 and a new-born son meant time soon got away from me.

“After he died, I felt I needed to do something for The Christie as they cared for my dad so much through COVID and beyond and I felt I owed them, as they made it possible for my dad to meet his grandson and spend some quality time with him.

“Dad and I always loved watching the rugby, along with my brother Oliver, including occasionally going to Sale Sharks and going to watch England at Twickenham.

“We were fortunate to watch all of the Six Nations at Twickenham as well as New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa.

“I had already agreed to run the Cardiff Half with some friends and thought why not go beyond this and make it a proper challenge and do something that I know my dad would be proud of and in places that would mean something to him and me. 

The Bolton News: Thomas runningThomas running (Image: The Christie Charity)“So, I decided to undertake a half-marathon in France, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Italy, and England and hopefully I’ll be enjoying a pint of Guinness after each race as a tribute to my dad."

Thomas had played rugby at Bolton School from 11 years old and continued to play at university and then for Bolton Rugby Club until he was 30.

He is a proud supporter of England and Sale Sharks, as well as Bolton Rugby Club.

Thomas said: “My dad was always there to support me and my brother Oliver as we were growing up and attended every rugby match me and my brother ever played in without fail.

“This continued as we got older, as there was a time where we both played for Bolton Rugby Club senior men’s teams at the same time and Dad would always come along on a Saturday to watch us and we’d all enjoy a beer or two afterwards.

“Dad had never played himself, mainly because he never had the opportunity, but our love of rugby, and all that we associate with it, brought us all happiness and fond memories.”

Thomas’ wife Anna, who supports Leeds Rhinos, and their three-year-old son Bertie, are coming on all of the trips to support him.

Many friends who know the family will also be joining them along the way and will even be running some of the half marathons with him.

Thomas understands that the prospect of completing six half-marathons is a substantial undertaking.

A friend of Thomas, David Blossom, who attended several rugby matches at Twickenham with them, is a local physiotherapist (LB Physio) in Bolton and is helping him with training advice and massages to ensure he completes the full six half marathons.

Thomas’ first half-marathon will take place in Paris on Sunday, March 3 and the last one will be a homecoming in Manchester on Sunday, October 13.

Thomas’ brother Oliver, 34, will be running the Manchester Half-Marathon with him and they hope to arrange a celebration in the city afterwards, to get all their friends and family together to celebrate completing the challenge and toasting their dad.

Thomas plans to provide regular updates throughout the year and is grateful for the support of friends and well-wishers, £1000 has already been donated, following Mark’s funeral.

Thomas said: “The Christie is a truly exceptional facility that provided my dad, with the care and support needed to initially beat cancer and later during its unfortunate return.

“My Dad’s sister Deborah was also treated at The Christie, and they gave her some extra time to enable her to see me get married.

“She unfortunately died from a brain tumour a few years ago but was always a part of our lives growing up as a doting auntie.

“So, The Christie really means a lot to our family and hopefully I can raise as much money as possible to support the cause.”

For further information, to donate, or to follow Thomas's journey, visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/6halfsfordad

If you have a story or something you would like to highlight in the community, please email me at chloe.wilson@newsquest.co.uk or DM me on X @chloewjourno.