Alex Gibson completes double marathon distance in walk from Brentwood to Bishop's Stortford with motor neurone disease
Former rugby player Alex Gibson likes a challenge – and does not let the fact that he has motor neurone disease (MND) stop him.
The 42-year-old, who also represented Great Britain in decathlon, has just completed his latest awe-inspiring charity fundraiser by walking the equivalent of two marathons in one day, finishing in Bishop’s Stortford.
Alex, from Brentwood, strode more than 120,000 steps, covering 52.4 miles (84.3km) in 24 hours walking from his home town to Stortford rugby club’s ground at Silver Leys, where he finished on Saturday August 1.
In doing so he has raised £14,000 for the charity he founded, Challenging MND, taking his overall fundraising total to more than £150,000.
Since being diagnosed with the disease in 2018, Alex has cycled 185 miles (298km) around the Outer Hebrides, walked 100 miles (161km) in a weekend and cycled to Guildford RFC and back to Brentwood RFC the following day (a total of 140 miles, 225km).
He averages 17,000 steps a day, despite using walking aids, and has done this consecutively for the past year, even managing it the day after walking 50 miles.
Last year he scaled the Three Peaks – Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon – and cycled the 480 miles (772km) in between over the period of a week. Due to his imbalance through MND, all these bike rides have taken place on an incumbent trike.
Alex said of his double marathon: “This is a fantastic achievement. Thank you to everyone that was a part of this walk, I hope that it will be a memory we can savour for many years to come.”
Andrew Cappaert, chief executive of Challenging MND, said that Alex’s “awe-inspiring achievements” summed up the charity’s mission, which is to provide memorable events or challenges for those with MND and their loved ones.
“Walking a double marathon in a single day is not for the faint hearted, even without the double challenge of doing it with MND,” he said. “But Alex always defies the odds – his name should be next to the definition of ‘determination’ in the dictionary.
“I’d like to thank everyone that took part in the event, supported us and donated. Onto the next challenge!”
Prior to Alex’s diagnosis he had a huge interest in sport and fitness. He played senior rugby for Barking, Brentwood and Loughborough University and also represented Bishop’s Stortford colts in his younger days. The father of two also currently coaches his son’s rugby team.
Challenging MND is the chosen charity when Bishops Stortford finally play their centenary rugby match this season. Marcus Cattell, BSRFC 1st XV coach, was instrumental in selecting the charity after seeing Alex’s motivational talk to the playing squad last year.
Alex set himself two major challenges for 2020 – one being the double marathon and the next will be an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the fastest time to travel the 128-mile (206km) length of the Thames in a pedalo as part of a team of four.
MND is a rapidly progressing neurological disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. It can leave people locked in a failing body, unable to move, talk, swallow and eventually breathe. There is a 1 in 300 chance of developing the disease and up to 5,000 adults are living with MND at any one time in the UK.
Challenging MND was created after Alex was diagnosed with the disease at the start of 2018. A charity rugby match was arranged between two of his previous clubs, Brentwood and Barking, in October 2018, with the sole aim to raise money for Alex and his family.
But he was uncomfortable being the recipient of the proceeds and instead wanted to use the money to set up a charity to help others. From this, Challenging MND was developed and gained official charity status in March 2019.
The charity also campaigns and raises awareness of MND, ensuring the needs of people affected by the disease are recognised and addressed by wider society. Almost all of its work is funded by voluntary donations and fundraising.
To donate towards Alex’s latest challenge, visit https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/AndrewCappaert1.