Wigan’s real-life Forrest Gump is today marking an incredible 1,000th consecutive day of running.
Matthew Melling, better known as the Wigan Runner, laced up for a 5k on January 1 2017 and has done so every day without fail ever since.
The 35-year-old’s exploits have gained national attention, which he has used to promote local charities and good causes.
When he began his challenge, Matthew was 18-stone and decided to set himself a challenge to get back into shape by running five kilometres every day for a month.
When his friend bet him he couldn’t last 50 days, he decided to keep going and refused to quit even after being attacked with eggs on the streets. An incredible 999 days later, he has shed three stone; travelled to over 20 countries and raised over £20,000 for charity by running every single day.
That means that every Christmas, birthday, and holiday he sets off to run five kilometres without ever having a day off. He even quit his career as a former odds compiler to dedicate more time to his running and charity fundraising.
His exploits have often been likened to those of Forrest Gump, who ran for more than three years straight in the Oscar-winning 1994 film
Matthew said: “It’s been an incredible journey so far and I could never have imagined running for so many days in a row when I first started running on January 1st, 2017 in Oslo, Norway. At first, I just wanted to set myself a goal to achieve something new and then after an old work colleague bet me £20 that I couldn’t get to 50 days I carried on which then led to continuing to run to help the homeless in Wigan.
“Things went from there really and I slowly felt myself prioritising running every day and fundraising for charities and community projects to help others.”
“I can’t believe that today it will be 1,000 days in a row.”.
Yesterday, he marked day 999 by running with paramedics and police officers, setting off from Wigan ambulance station towards Bolton police station.
Earlier this year he pushed his great uncle Harry - a World War Two veteran - across the line at the Wigan half marathon to raise money for armed forces veterans, and is now focusing his efforts on raising money to take the dodgeball team he coaches to the 2020 Dodgeball World Cup in Cairo, Egypt.
“Coaching Wigan Dodgeball Warriors is a huge honour for me,” he added.
“They are a great set of children and I’ve known some of them for years. If I could get the team to Cairo it would be fantastic. After we represented Wigan and England at the 2018 Dodgeball World Cup in New York I realised what a special journey we were on together.
"I’m currently fundraising to take a team of ten children and parents out there and it’s going to cost around £20,000. If anyone can help no matter how small, it will help us get closer to making this dream a reality and I can’t thank you enough.
“I now get invited into schools to talk about running and my journey. If I can help children realise that they can do whatever they want to in life if they work hard at what they want to do and not give up then anything really is possible!”
To donate, visit gofundme.com/wigandodgeballwarriors2020-dodgeball-worldcup