THE chairman of Parkinson's UK - who lives in Tadley - is setting out this week to become the first person living with Parkinson's to conquer the world's hardest triathlon.

Gary Shaughnessy, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2015, is taking on the Arch to Arc challenge, an epic 290-mile run, row and cycle from London to Paris.

Only 46 athletes have ever completed the Arch to Arc, which starts at Marble Arch in London and ends at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Gary is the first person living with Parkinson's to take part.

The 55-year-old set off from Marble Arch at midnight on Wednesday running through the capital and down into Kent, on an 83-mile route linking towns such as Gillingham, Faversham, Canterbury and Dover.

From Dover, Gary will row 21 miles across the English Channel, and then when back on dry land cycle 186 miles to Paris.

Gary is a famous figure in business and sport, as well as leading the charity, Parkinson's UK.

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Before he was diagnosed with Parkinson's, Gary was the CEO of Zurich Insurance. Today he is the chairman of England Athletics, and the Z Zurich Foundation.

He is taking on this incredible challenge to raise awareness and funds for Parkinson's UK, so research can be carried out and a cure can be found.

Gary said: "I needed to find something bigger and better this year, and someone suggested Arch to Arc. I partially do it to keep myself fit and exercising makes a real difference. But partially I want to raise awareness and funds for Parkinson's, particularly awareness because a lot of people assume being diagnosed is the end of your life.

"In my experience - although there are a lot of things that aren't good about Parkinson's - I've been very lucky. I've had seven-and-a-half years of meeting inspirational people and learning a lot about myself."

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He added: "That's the whole message. Just because you have Parkinson's it doesn't stop you living your life and getting on with things."

Gary has dedicated himself to raising awareness for Parkinson's since his own diagnosis seven years ago. He has a truly inspirational message: "Live life. Love life. Stop Parkinson's".

Parkinson's is now the fastest growing neurological condition in the world. There are 145,000 people in the UK living with Parkinson's. In the South East, there are 21,200 people with Parkinson's.

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