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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Parkinson’s sufferer completes 10 million-metre fundraiser with Dubai Marathon

Briton has ran, cycled, rowed and climbed the equivalent of 237 marathons to reach his goal of covering 10 million metres, but he's not done yet.
Parkinson's sufferer Alex Flynn finishes his 10 million metres challenge during the Dubai Marathon on Friday. The milestone is the equivalent of running 237 marathons. Antonie Robertson / The National
Parkinson's sufferer Alex Flynn finishes his 10 million metres challenge during the Dubai Marathon on Friday. The milestone is the equivalent of running 237 marathons. Antonie Robertson / The National

DUBAI // Alex Flynn’s completion of the Dubai Marathon marked an incredible double achievement – going the distance and covering 10 million metres to raise funds for research into Parkinson’s disease.

The Briton, 42, who has the condition, has completed the equivalent of 237 marathons. His advice for fellow runners is simple – enjoy yourself.

“What it boils down to is whether or not you enjoy it,” he said.

“It doesn’t mean that you have to set a personal best or beat yourself up because you didn’t reach your target. Did you enjoy it? It’s as simple as that.”

Despite suffering from cramps during the race and dehydration on Thursday evening, Flynn did not appear exhausted as he ran across the finish line, smiling and waving to supporters.

“I had a tough time but I had a great time,” he said.

“I had plenty of liquids last night. I felt fine at the beginning of the race but, unfortunately, the medication I take means I need to be fully hydrated, and I got very bad dystonia – a disorder that causes the muscles to contract – and that affects my gait.”

Mr Flynn, from Oxfordshire, England, was told he had Parkinson’s in 2008. A year later he began his superhuman effort to run, cycle, row and climb the distance to raise funds for research.

His voice shook as he recalled reaching his target, just 100m from the end of the marathon.

“When I came around the corner, I stopped,” he said.

“Part of me didn’t want to finish because it’s become an indelible part of my life. But it was a great feeling coming across that line.”

Ahmed Al Kamali, the president of the UAE Athletics Federation, said Flynn’s participation was vital.

“His run was fantastic. For us, this is important because we are not looking only for winners but participants like him,” he said.

Aiming to raise £1 million (Dh6m) for research, Flynn begins a new challenge in June with a friend to row 2,100 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean from Monterey Bay, California, to Honolulu, Hawaii.

“I’m way off the mark in the collections,” he said. “It will be amazing to reach that million mark. I’m not saying it would bring a cure to the market, but let’s find drugs that give people the ability to live with the disease.”

He said Parkinson’s sufferers “have the feeling of being an outcast” and that “you feel lonely because you lose your ability to do things that everybody else takes for granted”.

Parkinson’s affects nerve cells in the brain and symptoms include muscle rigidity, tremors and changes in speech and gait.

“If I can show people that a diagnosis does not mean your life stops, that actually life goes on and you can achieve more than you ever thought possible. If I can change one person’s life or attitude, then I’ve done my job,” Flynn said.

rtalwar@thenational.ae