A father is preparing to run his 26th consecutive London Marathon after overcoming Covid-19 and complications which left him fearing he may lose his right leg.
Simon Gallo, 62, of Stratford St Andrew in Suffolk developed coronavirus symptoms in March 2020.
While his immune system was weakened he developed a rare skin condition called pyoderma gangrenosum.
He said it took advantage of a small cut in his leg, describing it as like a “zombie flesh-eating thing, where – to be gory – lumps of flesh and blood and God knows what just fell off”.
The salesman, who is diabetic, said that after treatment his leg is a “bit of a messy scar” but he is now “completely without pain”.
He said he gained weight while on steroids for his leg injury but has since dropped from 15 stone 4lb to 13 stone 12lb.
Ahead of joining other runners in the capital for this year’s London Marathon next month, Mr Gallo said: “I could not imagine not being there, because I got the bug.
“I’m not going to be running fast.
“I’m going to be walking some of it because I’m not fit.
I’m just chuffed to bits that I’m able to do it and that it’s on
“I’m better but I’m not fit.
“I feel more like myself, the melon face has reduced, back to sort of almost normal for an old geezer like me.
“I’m just chuffed to bits that I’m able to do it and that it’s on.”
Calling himself the Mad Medic, he will run in surgery scrubs and carry flags naming the two charities he is supporting – the NSPCC and the Colchester and Ipswich Hospitals Charity.
Mr Gallo said his health is “much improved” since last year when he walked laps of the perimeter of Ipswich Hospital for 2020’s virtual event, and he is “regaining some missing fitness and shedding steroid pounds”.
He added: “The way I looked last year, I looked worse than the Michelin man.
“The face, the gait, the posture, I was just a mess.”
He said he plans to “just get round” the 26.2 miles this year.
“I’m a plodder who loves being part of it,” he said.
“It came to me as a shock when I was asked by my Army mate to find us a place in 1996 because he couldn’t get in through the ballot.
“We got two places with the British Diabetic Association and I’ve never experienced the euphoria I experienced that day crossing the line.”
He said he used to watch the marathon from Wapping where he lived in his 20s, “usually with a hangover on a Sunday morning” and thought the runners were “all mental and special people who had to train incredibly hard”.
He added: “But of course it’s a field of people who are of such varied capacity and ability, it’s a thing for anyone, old people, young people, fit people, not so fit people.
“It’s still my ambition to do it in under four hours but I’m going to have to set my mind to that and do some proper training.”
Andrew Skea, NSPCC assistant director for the East of England said: “Simon’s efforts are a great inspiration to us all and we can’t thank him enough for running the London Marathon for the NSPCC this year, especially after the medical condition he has only recently recovered from.”
Donations can be made at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/simongallo-marathon2021 or uk.virginmoneygiving.com/SimonGallo-Marathon2021.