Cycling legend Victoria Pendleton hailed an ‘extraordinary’ Edinburgh hero after presenting him with a National Lottery Award for overcoming grief and loss to run 280km for mental health charities.
Chris Sellar was honoured to achieve the Sport Hero Award, presented to him by two-time Olympic and multiple world champion Pendleton on Thursday at Oriam Sports Performance Centre in Edinburgh. The National Lottery Awards celebrate the inspirational people and organisations across the UK who have done extraordinary things with National Lottery funding.
Sellar, 30, decided to run 10km over 28 days – the equivalent of six and a half marathons – to promote mental wellbeing after losing his mum to suicide in January 2020 just months after his father had died from cancer.
After suffering such devastating losses, Sellar wanted to make a positive impact to help people who have mental health issues, as well as deal with his grief through running.
And proud Pendleton, who soared to Olympic gold medals at Beijing 2008 and London 2012, said: “Chris has done something extraordinary on the back of a very difficult situation.
“Getting a bit of peace and perspective by doing something very physically challenging to keep occupied and focussed, and do something very good for charity and to help support other people, is inspirational.
“It's a very selfless and wonderful thing that he's done and to raise £20,000 himself by running so far over 28 days is really something to be proud of.”
Sellar said: “With the diagnosis of dad's cancer, running became a pretty powerful way for me to go out and process what was going on, as well as stay fit and healthy.
“A month after mum died, I did the Inverness Half Marathon and that's the first time I'd ran a good distance for a while.
“Completing it after what we had been through, it was the moment I thought everything was going to be okay and that shows the evidence of how powerful exercise is.
“I really enjoyed the 28-day challenge. I think there were only two days where I didn't run with people. Particularly during lockdown, I felt privileged to be able to go and run with someone.
“I wasn't alone through a really difficult period. I'm just so glad that it gave me the ability to talk about what I'd been through and to try and encourage others to speak out as well.”
Sellar pledged himself to the challenge this January – one year on from the death of his mother – and ended up raising £20,000 for Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS), which is funded by The National Lottery and supported him through his grief.
Now a father to seven-month-old Max, Sellar wanted to make a difference and set an example for his son of how exercise can be a powerful tool to help through tough times.
He added: “It was overwhelming the amount of money that was raised, but also the messages of support that came through were incredible.
“I wanted to reconnect with my mum through it as well and it definitely did that. Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide were really supportive of me.
“I never set out to win any award - it was just the case of doing the challenge and seeing where we get to. Loads of people do incredible stuff for charity so I did feel a wee bit embarrassed, but I'm definitely humble and proud of what we've done.
“It's been great today being up at Oriam and having Victoria here – she’s such an inspiration.”
As a recipient of a National Lottery Award, Chris, will receive a £3,000 cash prize which he intends to donate to Back Onside, a Scottish mental health charity focused on sport.
Pendleton, who has been an advocate for mental health and is a former National-Lottery funded athlete, couldn’t be prouder to have presented Sellar with his award.
The 41-year-old said: “Appreciating the stresses and strains of life is close to my heart personally.
“For someone to be in a situation surrounded by suffering and still do something positive and constructive with their time is something that I think should be appreciated and awarded.
“I'm so pleased that The National Lottery have recognised Chris' efforts and supported him further by giving him the Sport Hero Award.”
For more information about projects funded by The National Lottery and The National Lottery Awards visit www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk and follow the campaign on Twitter: @LottoGoodCauses #NLAwards