Parkinson’s UK chair completes remarkable London to Paris charity endeavour

Parkinson’s UK chairman Gary Shaughnessy has raised more than £50,000 for charity after completing a unique Arch to Arc triathlon, which took him from London to Paris.

The Tadley resident and a rotating team of supportive friends and family first donned their running shoes for an ultramarathon from Marble Arch to Dover, beginning at one minute past midnight on Wednesday and finishing just over 24 hours later.

After just three hours sleep, he then rowed from Dover to Ramsgate and back – roughly the distance across the English Channel – before ending the endurance event with a two day cycle from Calais to Paris, finishing at the iconic Arc de Triomphe.

Gary Shaughnessy (centre) with his supporters in front of the Arc de Triomphe
Gary Shaughnessy (centre) with his supporters in front of the Arc de Triomphe

Mr Shaughnessy – who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, a degenerative disorder, in 2015 at the age of 48 – said he took on the challenge to show that being diagnosed with Parkinson’s wasn’t the end of your life.

He said: “Having Parkinson’s is, for many people, positioned as a degenerative condition that’s constantly downhill.

“But, although you may not be able to run marathons, I’ve seen people can still do lots of things like arts or sport.

Mid row between Dover and Ramsgate
Mid row between Dover and Ramsgate

“Having Parkinson’s doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy life and live it to the full.”

The event is the latest in a line of endurance endeavours Mr Shaughnessy has taken on.

In September last year, he took on two cycling expeditions in five days – the first a ride up 42 hills in recognition of the 42 participants who volunteered for a ground-breaking trial in 2019 to find a cure for Parkinson’s, and the second joining trial participant Darren Calder in his charity cycle ride from Bristol Tower to London.

At the beginning of the challenge
At the beginning of the challenge

The following month, Mr Shaughnessy and his friend Andy Tucker broke the Guinness World Record for the longest distance travelled on three legs, completing nearly 300 loops of the Silchester playing field – a total of more than 117km.

Mr Shaughnessy is one of around 40 people to have completed the Arch to Arc, and he paid tribute to his team for supporting him along the way.

He continued: “The support was unbelievably important.

“When you start to doubt yourself, the people with you believe you’re going to carry on, and that makes you feel more confident about yourself.

“People would say it’s a solo kind of event, but what it’s proved to me beyond any doubt is that it’s a team event, because if you don’t have your team with you – whether in the running, cycling or rowing – you won’t manage it.

“People were very generous with their time, support and encouragement and it’s a wonderful experience to have been part of.”

A particular highlight for Mr Shaughnessy on the route was stopping at Ospringe Church of England Primary School near Canterbury around 57 miles into his run, where children lined the fence cheering his arrival.

He then popped into the school for a Q&A, and they did a lap of the playing field as part of the school’s ‘Daily Mile’.

He added: “That was brilliant because the energy of the kids lifted me at a time I needed lifting.”

Mr Shaughnessy raised £28,000, which will all go to Parkinson’s UK, while the Zurich Community Trust match funded £25,000 which will be split between two young people’s charities – Reach Out in Manchester and Spotlight UK in Berkshire/Hampshire.

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