Sean Tilson (centre) after completing the Chester Ultra 100 Mile run

A University of Exeter Business School student is half-way through an epic feat of endurance as he aims to raise money for a cancer charity while paying tribute to his mother.

Sean Tilson, a second year Business Management student, became the youngest person to run and complete the Chester Ultra 100 Mile Run in April, which he followed up this weekend by running the Exeter Live Better Marathon.

Next month, Sean will be heading to France to complete an Ironman in Nice, consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a marathon, and then in July will attempt the Lakeland Trails Ultra 100k run.

Sean, 20, has a keen interest in charity fundraising, and helped to raise over £10,000 for various causes while at school.

For his ‘Four Challenges in Four Months’ fundraising drive, Sean will be raising money for Sarcoma UK, a charity that funds research and supports those affected by bone and soft tissue cancer.

The charity has special significance for Sean as his mother passed away after a battle with Sarcoma when Sean was 14.

“It’s really powerful having the support of a charity like Sarcoma UK around you as a child, Sean explains. “This particular charity is obviously very close to my heart because of what happened to my mum. They’re doing really vital work to improve the situation both in terms of treatment and raising awareness, but without support from the public they’d cease to exist in the first place.”

“Before Sarcoma took my mum’s life I was very privileged, I had lots of access to opportunities,” he explained. “I used to figure skate in national competitions and played tennis, football and swam to a high level, and was learning other skills like piano. I was enjoying school but then a lot of those opportunities fell away, because other things took priority: supporting my dad and taking care of my younger brother.

“My perspective changed and I started to identify social problems that I’d never really paid attention to before – homelessness and feelings of social isolation. I became more acutely aware of problems in society and began thinking about how I could have a go at trying to improve things myself.”

Sean sees ‘Four Challenges in Four Months’ as both a fundraising attempt and personal tribute to his mother, whom he describes as the driving force spurring him on.

For the Chester Ultra 100 Mile run, Sean ran through the night and was on his feet for a total of 31.5 hours. Half of the runners who started the race dropped out and Sean was the youngest to complete the race.

“For a race like that I would say it’s easily 50-50 mental and physical,” he said. “I knew that I had that mental side and wasn’t going to give up and had that certainty that the only way I wasn’t going to complete that race was if the physical side let me down.”

Sean describes himself as ‘hyper ambitious’ and is a greater believer that a large part of success is about mindset.

Sean is president of four societies at the University of Exeter, and has also launched several startups. He is determined to throw himself into everything he can at university and is motivated by ideas and initiatives that have a social impact on society.

“It’s going to sound crazy, but I don’t really enjoy running!” he admits. “But I decided to run 100 miles and to take on these challenges partly because I wanted to explore what it was possible to achieve if I put my mind to something. I genuinely think so many people have the potential to achieve great things and the only thing stopping them is their mindset.”

Sean, who last year won Exeter Chamber’s Next Gen Award, awarded to a young person under 30 positively impacting the Exeter region, will apply the same principles to whatever he ends up doing as a career.

“I want to build my own social enterprises and see my future very much grounded in entrepreneurship, understanding social problems and supporting people in different regions around the world,” he said.

“One of the things that I really enjoy is actually meeting people from different walks of life and gaining new perspectives, learning. If I can do something in the future to help people and improve their lives that would be the goal.”

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