Marathon man Matthew Rees: ‘It was fate. We were meant to cross the finish line together’

Chitra Ramaswamy
David Wyeth of Chorlton Runners with Swansea Harrier Matthew Rees, who helped Wyeth to the finishing line of the London Marathon on Sunday. Photograph: Adam Davy/PA

It has become the defining image of the 2017 London Marathon: Matthew Rees stopping 300 metres short of the finish line to help David Wyeth, a stranger on the verge of collapse, complete the race. “I was just about to sprint to the finish when I saw David,” Rees tells me. “His legs were completely jelly-like and he collapsed in front of me. So I decided to forget my race. He had come so far and after 26 miles of running I wanted him to make the finish.”

Rees, who was running his third marathon as part of the Swansea Harriers club, was having a tough race himself. “Earlier on, some calf issues that I had been experiencing flared up and I was in a lot of pain,” he confesses. “I nearly dropped out but I decided I wanted to get to the finish line. When I saw David, he was clearly having the same thought. It felt like fate, that we were meant to cross together.” What did he say to him? “I was trying to motivate him and keep him coherent. I just kept on saying: ‘You will finish, I won’t leave your side, we’ll get to that finish line.’”

Rees only started running two years ago. “I wanted to get a bit fitter,” he says, “and more importantly, it was for mental health reasons. I was suffering from anxiety and running really helps with that. It’s changed my life.”

The video of the two men crossing the finish line arm in arm immediately went viral, with the London Marathon tweeting: “Matthew Rees, of @SwanHarrierDev, you’ve just encompassed everything that’s so special about the #LondonMarathon. We salute you.” Rees, with what seems to be characteristic modesty, tells me that such acts of kindness happen routinely in the running community and it just so happened that his sportsmanship was caught on camera.

As for whether it affected his PB, he remains philosophical. “As I got closer, I realised if I could speed up a little bit in the last few hundred metres I could finish under two hours, 50 minutes,” he notes. “But then I saw David and decided it was more important to make sure he finished as well. So I didn’t get the time I was looking for, but I got a memorable moment and that’s more important.”

In the end, he and Wyeth finished in an impressive two hours, 52 minutes and 26 seconds. Have they become friends? “He’s a really great guy and we’ve got a lot in common,” he says. “We both started running two years ago and we’ve got similar goals and outlooks on running. We’ll stay in touch and hopefully race in an event together in the future.”

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