An inspirational life, signified by courage that knew no bounds.

When 30-year-old Luke Harding died in the late hours of yesterday (Thursday) night, he left behind a legacy of fortitude and resolve far greater than even he could have ever envisaged, writes Fraser Watson.

It is common in circumstances as tragic as this to say an individual has lost their battle with illness - but here that phrase is contradictive.

Having been diagnosed with lung cancer in the summer of 2016, the manner in which he confronted the condition whilst at the same time, raising in excess of £30,000 to help others, means one thing is abundantly clear.

Luke Harding didn’t lose. He made it his mission to prove that a terminal diagnosis does not stop you living your life, being yourself, or inspiring those around you. It was a challenge he conquered emphatically, and in that respect, he leaves us as a winner in every single way.

For me to imply we were close lifelong friends would be misleading. In truth, our paths only regularly crossed in recent times, when he gave me opportunities to interview him and report on his epic ongoing fundraising for Ward 10 in Withybush Hospital.

I will be forever grateful he did so.

Through my line of work, I’ve been fortunate to engage with a number of sporting figures, from local stalwarts to famous professionals I have only ever previously related to through television.

With complete sincerity, I can say no individual has left a more lasting impression on me than Luke himself. I didn’t need to go back a long way with him to instantly appreciate his strength through adversity.

For many, such a condition would be enough to end any association with physical activity. And yet, Luke continued to train with Fishguard Sports AFC, embarked on a 186-mile trek around the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, and most amazingly of all, only last October completed the Cardiff Half Marathon.

Sitting around the house and moping really wasn’t for him.

And it is the latter achievement that remains etched at the forefront of my mind.

I met with him at Fishguard Leisure Centre last August when his preparations were very much in full swing for the 13-mile race.

At the time, he admitted to struggling after suffering seizures and breathlessness during training. And yet, the notion of not taking to the start line in Cardiff was never even discussed.

Furthermore, throughout our two hour meeting there was no hint of egotism or self-satisfaction. Luke was well known as an outgoing character, but he spoke only of his gratitude towards the leisure centre staff who had designed him a training programme, and the specialists who continued to treat him. He talked at length about how he hoped completing the half marathon would help others in his situation, and yet he barely touched upon how it might help him.

On the day itself, my heart sank when via the race website, I saw his live tracker had seemingly halted just three miles in. I should have known better but to doubt him.

He refused to be beaten, got going again, and completed the full course in a show of guts and determination that the vast majority of us can’t even comprehend. If ever a day summed up the manner in which he handled his illness, it was that one.

Sadly, back injuries sustained during the event meant the pair of us had to postpone our scheduled feature on the coastal path, which he had been tackling in stages on a weekly basis. His plan was always to return to the challenge and eventually complete the full distance, and it saddens me deeply I cannot now fulfil my promise to join him.

Of course, one single article cannot begin to justify the character Luke has shown since the summer of 2016, or truly reflect his fundraising efforts. His story is one that has reverberated well beyond the realms of Pembrokeshire sport.

But for me, in an era where back-page headlines are often dominated by misdemeanours, finances and disputes, he has been a timely reminder that true heroes do exist. He once joked to me that he was never the most talented sportsman, and yet the admirable traits which so many so called superstars clearly lack, he possessed in abundance.

During his illness, Luke wasn’t adverse to using slogans to gather support for his fundraising, with ‘Stand up to cancer’ and ‘Fight the good fight’ being two among them. To say he practiced what he preached would be a monumental understatement.

Luke, you might have left us mate, but be rest assured, your legacy never will.