Rugby Fan Attempts 7 Triathlons in 7 Days to Benefit the MND Association

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by Mary Chapman |

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Calling it the “biggest challenge” of his life, a U.K. rugby fan and motor neurone disease (MND) advocate, Martyn Clarke, is undertaking a Herculean effort — seven Half Ironman triathlons in seven days — to raise funds for the MND Association.

Clarke, 47, was inspired to push himself to the limit by rugby league legend Rob Burrow MBE, who was diagnosed with MND two years ago. MNDs are a group of progressive neurological disorders that includes amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as ALS.

Clarke raised more than £6,000 ($8,000) for the nonprofit last year with a #12for12 ultra run, a 145-mile (233 kilometers) challenge split over 12 consecutive days. This year, he hopes to come up with £17, 777 ($23,700) to be split between the South Lancashire and West Yorkshire branches of the MND Association, which focuses on access to care, advocacy, and MND research. So far, more than £13,250 ($17,660) have been raised.

“Friends have asked me if it’s realistic and only time will tell!” Clarke said in a press release. “To attempt 8.5 miles of swimming, nearly 400 miles on the bike and 90-plus miles running in the cold of December is the Everest of challenges.”

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The effort will be split over seven days, meaning that Clarke will swim 1.2 miles, cycle 56 miles, and run a half marathon (13.1 miles) on each day of the challenge.

“I always wanted to repeat something which pushed the human endurance limit, including the mental aspect of endurance,” he said. “That is how I view Rob Burrow’s status, as a player and his current situation. He put his body on the line week in, week out for years and is now battling what is thrown against him day in, day out. He is a credit and a legend of the world of Rugby League.”

Friends, family, and supporters from around the world are cheering on Clarke, who lives in Wigan, England, in his quest, which began Dec. 11. He also has the support of Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, and Hector Pardoe, Great Britain’s Olympic open water swimmer.

To prepare, Clarke put himself through a rigorous training regimen not only to heighten his odds of finishing the challenge, but to raise awareness. During his preparation, he joined a fellow MND Association supporter, Kevin Sinfield, on his Extra Mile Challenge, spurring him on to the finish.

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Clarke’s endurance effort has generated so much support and publicity that, during his training, students and members of academia at Leeds Beckett University’s Carnegie School of Sport provided him with physiological testing and nutritional advice to enhance his chances of completing the triathlon.

Go here to follow Clarke’s journey on social media, view prizes to bid on, and donate to his effort.