Ex-athlete with motor neurone disease breaks pedalo world record

A former Great Britain decathlete who has motor neurone disease has broken the world record for navigating the Thames on a pedalo.

Alex Gibson, 42, was part of a four-man team that pedalled from Lechlade in Gloucestershire to Teddington in south-west London in an unofficial time of two days, 15 hours and two minutes – breaking the previous record by nearly two days.

It is expected to be ratified by Guinness World Records in the coming weeks.

“It was intense,” Mr Gibson, who was diagnosed with MND two years ago, told the PA news agency.

Thames pedalo trip record attempt
Thames pedalo trip record attempt

“It was three days of constant pedalling and the team we selected for the event have been very positive, adaptable and enabled me to pull through.”

Mr Gibson, from Brentwood, was joined by former England rugby player Andy Long, as well as Alun Thomas and Joe Reed, to complete the challenge, which finished late on Friday night.

“It was absolutely amazing,” Mr Gibson said. “We had so much fun and banter aboard that pedalo, it was immense.”

The team was raising money for Challenging MND, the charity founded by Mr Gibson that aims to provide funds and support for people with the condition to take on challenges of their own.

Mr Gibson, a former high-level rugby player who also represented Great Britain in decathlon, has used such challenges as an outlet since his diagnosis in 2018.

“It came as a major shock to myself and all the supporters around me,” he said. “I suppose it’s quite ironic really, when you take perfect care of your health and fitness, that MND comes knocking at your door.

“With the challenges, they’ve enabled me to celebrate all my current ability to function as best I can.

“I suppose with MND, you have to stay as strong as you can and challenges like this really help the mindset and enable me to function according to that pattern.”

Mr Gibson’s previous challenges have included cycling the Outer Hebrides and scaling Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon.

Thames pedalo trip record attempt
Thames pedalo trip record attempt

But his latest effort was not without its difficult moments.

“The second day, we were about 10 hours into the challenge, we encountered a massive heavy storm and there was a torrential downpour for four or five miles,” he said.

“The winds were quite heavy, lightning was thundering down on us. That was a real test.

“I was absolutely cold to the bone. I really struggled to keep warm – with MND you’re very susceptible to even minor changes in temperature.

“We really had to dig deep and summon up all the inner strength we had to push us through.”

And he admits it may be some time before he boards a pedalo again.

“I certainly can’t even contemplate looking at a pedalo any more. Even a swan pedalo I’d be apprehensive to get on in the future.”

Donations to the challenge can be made at https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Team/GuinnessWorldRecordThamesPedaloChallenge