Credit: British Triathlon

Beating cancer not once but five times and becoming a European gold medallist is exactly what David Fletcher did when he won the gold medal in the M40-44 Standard Duathlon race.

Over 800 British Age-Group athletes travelled to Targu Mures, Romania, for the second edition of the European Multisport Championships from 29 June – 7 July with over 150 athletes returning home with a medal.

Fletcher has also qualified for the Almere ITU Standard Distance Duathlon World Championships taking place next year in September in Holland.

However, David’s story is quite remarkable when you consider he has beaten cancer not once but five times within the last 20 years and has shown plenty of grit and determination to get to where he is now.

An HGV driver from Hull and a passion for health and fitness, David has battled Hodgkins Lymphoma, germ cell cancer twice, testicular cancer as well as skin cancer and in 2016 David was told he may never recover from the treatment he had been given. Despite having gone through extreme chemotherapy and numerous operations, David credits his recovery to health and fitness as well as his family.

“Throughout my life I have always kept fit and when I was diagnosed with germ cell cancer on both occasions, doctors said that it would have killed me if I hadn’t been fit,” Fletcher said. “You build yourself up and when you hear you have cancer it knocks you back.

“However, I was determined to stay positive and when doctors and nurses told me I needed various types of treatment I was already thinking about when I could get back to running. And even when I was in hospital, I was always making an effort to get up on my feet and walk to keep myself active.

“From my mum and dad looking after my family whilst I was receiving treatment to my brother running alongside me at various running events, we do everything together and we support each other through the good times and the bad times. My family have played a huge part in helping me get to where I am today and I couldn’t be more proud of them.

“We as a family want to enjoy every moment in our lives and continue to make memories.”

Having been crowned a European Age-Group Champion in Romania earlier this month, David is still coming to terms with the achievement.

“I still feel like I’m living a dream and can’t quite believe what I was able to achieve in Targu Mures,” he added. “It was a challenging race considering it was boiling hot at the start but come the bike section it was wet and windy. The first 10km run was pretty good and was able to record a PB and keep up with the leading pack. Going into the first of five laps on the bike, I decided to take it steady considering it was wet. But because I could see the leaders getting away, I chose to put the hammer down on the second lap and managed to stay with the pack.

“My legs were killing me going into my second run, but I just knew I couldn’t give up knowing I had trained hard to get to this point. Crossing the finishing line and being announced as the European Age Group M40-44 Standard Duathlon Champion came as a total shock. The aim was to get a medal in Romania but to win gold was incredible.

“I don’t know whether people will refer to me as the 5xcancer kid or the European Age Group 40-44 Standard Duathlon Champion 2019. Whichever I’m proud of both the titles.”

David is already in training for next year’s World Championships in Holland and will be competing at Ironman Lanzarote in May 2020. He is also looking to fulfil a lifelong dream by running next year’s London Marathon and secure a Good For Age entry which requires athletes to have achieved a sub qualifying marathon time between 1 January 2018 and 6 August 2019. In David’s case, he will have needed to achieve a sub 3hrs 5mins marathon time to be in with a chance of securing a place at the London Marathon.

“I want to continue to push myself further and inspire people,” he concluded. “When you get messages from people saying you’ve inspired them to go running/get fit, you can’t ask for more than that and it is very heart-warming. Life is a roller coaster and right now I’m riding high after what I was able to achieve in Romania.”