By Gary Shaughnessy
Since I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s six years ago, I’ve tried to use exercise as a way to slow down my progression and to raise funds towards Parkinson’s services, research and increase awareness of the condition. I may be getting slower,. but finishing sporting events continues to give me the satisfaction of giving Parkinson’s a bloody nose.
This year I wanted to try something different that might bring people together:
Three-legged running just seemed right! When I run, it’s normally the only time that I feel like I don’t have Parkinson’s, but increasingly my stiffness means I feel like I’m dragging something along with me . On the other hand , the support I’ve had from Tadley Runners has made me feel the opposite . It one of the few events that I’ve got a chance of breaking a world record, but at the same time, with a bit of care, lots of people from the young to the old can have a go at this “unusual” event.
The first plan was to host the biggest three-legged event in the world, in-person, and for a friend and I to take on the 24-hour, three-legged world record at the same time this past May. Then along came COVID-19. One thing about the Parkinson’s community that binds us is resilience, so we’ve now made it a virtual event to match COVID rules and keep people as safe as possible.
For this year’s Three-Legged Challenge, October 17-18, 2020, we aim to get 768 pairs around the world to join together virtually and complete a minimum 200 metres, three-legged style. By staying at home or finding a safe space in the local park , people across the planet can run alongside each other to raise awareness of Parkinson’s.
It also fits, for me, with the PD Avengers theme of being “Stronger Together” and the aim of one million voices by end 2022. 768 pairs taking part across the world can even make 2 people running around a field with their legs tied together mean something much more.
Already , my PD Avenger colleagues have lent their support with Sally Bromley and her grandson Eitan entering and doing a video. Jayne Calder and Paul Mathew-Archer have also joined in.
Friends and connections across the world are getting behind it too – entries are already in from the US, Switzerland, Turkey, Argentina, Spain, France and the U.K. , with commitments from Hong Kong, Germany, Australia and the Isle of Man
It’s also great to see people from different U.K. Parkinson’s charities coming together. Naturally, we’ve entries from Parkinson’s U.K., but I’m also delighted that Will Cook from Cure Parkinsons Trust has entered and there’s a team connected with Funding Neuro.
There’ll be a series of recognition awards – fancy dress, 1km, 5k and 10km plus best effort. Entry is just £5 and £2.50 for people with Parkinson’s and all funds go to Parkinson’s U.K.
I’m still aiming to take on the challenge of completing 116km three-legged in under 24 hours on the same day. We have a Plan B and Plan C to make sure we comply with social distancing rules.
Delays as a result of COVID-19 have made October a busy month though – the virtual London marathon and the Run to the Sea Ultramarathon are the two weekends before the three-legged challenge! The good thing is that this will give me more space to raise awareness of Parkinson’s, of Parkinson’s U.K. and of PD Avengers.
One of the most powerful parts of the PD Avengers mission for me is the idea that we’re so much stronger together . One soccer fan singing “you’ll never walk alone” out of tune can be well-meaning but is something you really want to forget . A full stadium of soccer fans at Anfield singing “you’ll never walk alone” is so special that you’ll want to always remember it. One million PD Avengers using our voices together will be both memorable and unshakeable at a whole different level.