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Alex smashes world pedalo record despite suffering from motor neurone disease

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A former Bishop's Stortford rugby player with motor neurone disease (MND) has smashed the Guinness world record for the fastest time to travel the length of the Thames in a pedalo.

Alex Gibson, 42, was part of a four-man team who on August 28 finished the 128-mile (205km) route from Lechlade-on-Thames in Gloucestershire to Teddington Lock, London, in two days, 15 hours and two minutes – beating the previous record set in 2018 by almost two days.

On August 1, Alex walked 52 miles (84km) from his home town of Brentwood to Stortford rugby club's ground at Silver Leys , where he was a former colts player, raising £14,000 for Challenging MND, the charity he founded following his diagnosis.

The happy pedalo team after smashing their way to a new world record. (41750473)
The happy pedalo team after smashing their way to a new world record. (41750473)

His latest, record-breaking achievement saw the team raise £23,437, which takes his total fundraising efforts so far to more than £170,000.

Father-of-two Alex, who also represented Great Britain in decathlon, was joined for the Guinness world record pedalo challenge by Alun Thomas, Joe Reed and Andy Long, patron of Challenging MND and former Stortford director of rugby.

Alex said: "The team absolutely smashed it and I'm so proud of everyone involved – together we have rewritten the records and created history.

The route along the Thames taken by the team (41750476)
The route along the Thames taken by the team (41750476)

“Thank you to everyone involved, everyone who came to the river and all who donated. We're completely overwhelmed by the support and interest.

"Along with making a superb new Guinness world record, we hope this feat raises awareness for motor neurone disease and puts Challenging MND on the map to help establish us as the go-to charity for creating memories for people affected by MND.”

Challenging MND was formed after a charity rugby match between the two clubs Alex had played for, Brentwood and Barking, in October 2018, with the sole aim to raise money for him and his family. But he was uncomfortable with being the recipient of the proceeds and instead wanted to use the money to set up a charity to help others.

Challenging MND's mission is to provide memorable events or challenges for those with MND and their loved ones. It campaigns to raise awareness of the disease, ensuring the needs of people affected by it are recognised and addressed by wider society. Almost all of its work is funded by donations and fundraising.

Alex has also cycled around the Outer Hebrides, walked 100 miles (161km) in a weekend, cycled from Brentwood to Guildford and back again the next day and completed the Three Peaks Challenge, scaling Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon and cycling the 480 miles (772km) in between in a week.

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.

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