A GORING man with Parkinson’s disease has run, walked and cycled 10 million metres to raise money for research.
Alex Flynn, a 41-year-old lawyer, completed his challenge when he took part in the Dubai Marathon last month, less than three years after he started.
Mr Flynn, who was diagnosed with the neurological condition in 2008, has taken part in treks, bike rides and endurance runs all over the world. So far he has raised almost £68,000 for the Cure Parkinson’s Trust.
Mr Flynn flew to Dubai from the south of France, where he had been training.
The night before the race, he developed a stomach bug and was unable to hold down water or his medication, so he was dehydrated when he started and suffered from dystonic leg spasms, a symptom of Parkinson’s, as he ran.
He eventually had to stop and then walk for a while to save his energy.
“I cramped up big time at around 18 to 20 miles,” said Mr Flynn. “I just couldn’t run because my legs were completely solid. It was agony but I knew I had to finish so I sprinted the last stretch towards the line. It really hurt but I knew I had to do it.
“It was an immense experience and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Part of me didn’t want it to end because the 10 million metre challenge has been integral to my life for such a long time and I almost didn’t want that to change.
“Lots of people have told me that I should be proud of what I’ve done but to be honest I don’t think it has really sunk in yet. It has been a huge undertaking and I think it’ll probably take a week or two to really hit me.”
Mr Flynn is writing a book about his experiences called 10 Million Metres, which he hopes to publish later this year. He said it would be a “warts and all” chronicle of his journey.
He began his challenge in 2010 by competing in the Marathon des Sables across the Sahara desert. He finished 528th out of 1,100 runners and became the first person with Parkinson’s to complete the course.
He then took part in a number of runs across Europe, including the Challenge Henley triathlon and the 50-mile Thames Trot along the river towpath.
In 2011 he cycled 2,345km from London to Rome, which he completed despite a bone fracture in his right leg, and ran the 41km Otter Trail in South Africa.
The following year he ran, cycled and kayaked more than 3,000 miles across America as well as climbing Mt Whitney, the country’s highest mountain at 14,500ft.
Mr Flynn, who moved to Goring from Henley last year, said: “It’s kind of weird to think about what we’re all capable of if we only put our minds to it. There were low points like when I was crossing America and I was constantly in danger of being hit by trucks as I ran along the hard shoulder. When I was running across Europe I tore a tendon and every footfall felt like a piece of four-by-two was being smashed across my shin.
“However, you’ve got to keep reminding yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing and who you’re doing it for. There are people in the world who are far worse off.
“It’s all about getting people’s attention and understanding of what’s happening with this disease. It’s something that can affect people of any age.
“I did question myself several times, especially at the end of some days where I couldn’t climb the ladder into my bunk bed because the pain was so excruciating. Those were the worst points but they were also the points that drove me forward. If you can’t find the positive in a negative situation you’ll never find your way out of it.”
Next month, Mr Flynn will begin training for a 2,500-mile row across the Pacific Ocean, which he is undertaking with his friend Darren Taylor.
The pair, who studied together at The Henley College, are taking part in the New Ocean Wave Great Pacific Race from California to Hawaii on June 7.
They expect to spend up to 80 days at sea and will row around the clock, consuming more than 8,000 calories a day to stay nourished.
Half of their proceeds will go to the Cure Parkinson’s Trust and the rest will go to the Fire Fighters Charity.
Their £50,000 carbon fibre boat is being made by Rannoch but Mr Flynn needs a sponsor.
“I’ve had to fund some of the boat building myself,” he said. “I’m looking for a company that really wants to make change happen for people with neurological diseases. We have approached some big companies but it has proved harder than I could ever have imagined and we are still looking.
“If there are any companies out there that want to achieve a world first and do something truly unique and outstanding, we are your team.
“This is about giving people hope that a diagnosis doesn’t define the rest of your life.”
For more information, visit www.pacificrow2014.co.uk or www.alexflynn.co.uk