Ryan Jones to run garden marathon to support NHS

Ryan Jones celebrates 5/2/2012
As a Grand Slam-winning captain, legendary Wales back rower Ryan Jones has faced and overcome his fair share of challenges during his illustrious rugby career.

As a Grand Slam-winning captain, legendary Wales back rower Ryan Jones has faced and overcome his fair share of challenges during his illustrious rugby career.

But the 39-year-old will be putting himself through a completely new physical and mental test on Saturday when he attempts to run a marathon in his garden at his Swansea home.

Jones, who won Grand Slam titles with Wales in 2005, 2008 and 2012, is undertaking the unique feat during lockdown to help raise money for NHS staff during the Covid-19 pandemic.

He is supporting a campaign to raise extra resources for the Swansea Bay University LHB charitable fund and has already smashed the £500 target he set on his JustGiving page.

“It was a real impulse thing,” said Jones. “I have been blown away over the past couple of weeks by the strength of the human spirit, you see some of lengths people are going to.

“People have been going above and beyond what is expected, whether it be frontline NHS staff, the postman, through to council workers, shop workers and police and firemen.

“They are putting others before themselves and I have been reflecting on it and feeling a little bit useless as it been a tough period in work and everyone is going through similar circumstances.

“I just wanted, in my own small way, to do something for others really and I saw the local NHS board were trying to raise some money for the Trust, the staff and the patients.

“I thought if nothing else I can do something to raise some awareness. I thought, ‘How do I do this?’ so I set up a JustGiving page which I thought was just me messing about on my phone.

“Before I knew it the page was live and there was no going back. That was on Wednesday lunchtime and I’m now doing a marathon in my garden on Saturday (April 4) morning.”

The former Ospreys star and Welsh Rugby Union’s performance director estimates the run will require him to do around 700 lengths of his garden to cover the 26-mile distance.

And having already raised more than £2,000 since announcing the challenge on Wednesday, Jones admits the support he has received has completely surpassed his expectations.

“I’ve just been blown away by the interest in it really,” he said.

“It seems to have captured the imagination of quite a few and lots of people have been in touch and it’s gone wider than the sport of rugby, it’s just raised the awareness.

“That’s what I set out to do. It’s a bit of good news in amongst all the sadness and problems out there, if I can put a smile on one person’s face this weekend that will be just reward.”

Jones, whose playing career ended in 2014, won 75 Wales caps and held the record for the highest number of games as skipper until Sam Warburton surpassed him in 2015.

Having helped Wales become the first ever team to win a Grand Slam playing more games away than at home in 2005, Jones led his country to another clean sweep three years later.

He also played in every game of their 2012 success but Jones is now hoping to inspire others by completing the 26-mile challenge in the garden of his home in Swansea, where he lives with his wife Ailsa and their three children Jacob, nine, Ellie-May, seven, and Annie, five.

“I am a big believer in the mind being the limiting factor,” added Jones.

“Your mind will give up before you body ever will and I just hope it might inspire a few others and show if you set you mind to something, no matter how tough or draft, you can get it done.

“I did set a £500 target but I’ve already come up to the £2,000 mark which is incredible really as it’s only been live for a day and I appreciate it’s a tough time for everyone financially.

“With the uncertainty it was never really an ask for money but if people could support then that’s amazing and it all goes towards an amazing cause supporting others.

“If it can help in some way I think it’s job done, it makes us all feel a bit better.”

To support his garden marathon fundraising challenge, visit his JustGiving page.