Please note this story contains graphic details which may upset some readers.
An inspirational Wandsworth man who raised thousands for rape victims by running 12 marathons, is in the running for Cosmopolitan magazine’s Ultimate Man award tonight.
Communications worker Chris Jackson, 27, of Earlsfield Road, raised £14,000 for Amnesty International and Women for Women International by running a marathon a month in 2010 and kayaking Canada’s Yukon River this year.
Chris’ nomination was from an anonymous person. He received a surprise email saying he was shortlisted for the £3000 prize.
He said: “I am really grateful for the recognition and support.”
Chris visited a refugee camp in the Congo in 2009, and witnessed women living perpetually at risk of rape and attack.
“I felt incredibly guilty and knew I couldn’t go away and ignore it. I felt a massive need to do something, it was so upsetting,” said Chris.
Hours after, a gun held to his head as his guesthouse was looted by the military, he had already seen too much to walk away from this desperate place.
He contacted Women for Women International, who rehabilitate victims of war, and planned his 12 race challenge.
He struggles to talk about the woman he met.
“I spoke to a woman whose husband was murdered in front of her and her five children, and she was raped. She had flesh cut from her thigh and soldiers forced her children to eat it. When one refused, he was shot. Her house was set on fire.”
The woman enrolled in a rehabilitation scheme and now has a small business.
“I don’t know how these women are so resilient. But if they let what’s happened to them get to them, they are defeated. They stay strong to give their children a better life”
In early 2011, armed with pepper spray to ward off black bears, he embarked on the 475 mile Yukon River race.
“With a storm in the background and 6ft waves lapping at my boat I was screaming at myself saying ‘why are you doing this you fool!’ But I kept reminding myself that people have gone through a lot worse than me.”
He crossed the finish line after 69 terrifying hours.
Chris said: “I know I can’t change the world… but you should never underestimate the effect that doing something small can do.”
The ceremony is being held in London tonight.
Picture courtesy of Ray Forster, with thanks