Steve Prescott’s relentless pursuit in raising funds and awareness for his charities continues when he embarks on his toughest challenge yet, The Race to the Grand Final. Prescott, who is no stranger to battling adversity, since being diagnosed with a rare form of stomach cancer, will be joined by two individuals who have had to endure their own share of misfortune.
Jimmy Gittins and Pete Stephenson both suffered serious spinal cord injuries playing rugby league and where told they would never walk again. The pair has since gone on to defy doctors’ opinions and have got back on their feet, despite initially being paralyzed from the chest down.
They will take part in the “Quadrathon” which involves, swimming the width of the river Humber and the river Mersey. Participants will also have to cycle from Hull to Liverpool, before an 18 mile run to Runcorn Bridge, where they will then Kayak 26 miles to the Grand Final at Old Trafford. The challenge will be held over just a 48 hour period in which to complete it.
All proceeds raised will go to the Christies Cancer Hospital and the Try Assist Benevolent Fund, which both Jimmy and Pete have strong links to. The Try Assist Benevolent Fund was set up to help seriously injured rugby league players and Jimmy and Pete are both beneficiaries’ of it. The pair, who has done previous fund raising events, admits that this will be their hardest yet.
Stephenson (33) explains: “We have come a long way since our accidents, but still suffer from a degree of paralysis. Because of the level of our injuries, we were diagnosed as Quadriplegics, which means all four main limbs where affected. Although we can both walk, with the aid of crutches, we have limited function in our hands and upper arms too.
“It means that they will be certain aspects of the challenge that we may need to adapt to suit us. Instead of running the 18 mile, we will complete that part of the challenge on a hand tricycle. How we complete this challenge is not important, the fact that we are taking part in something to help others is.
“We are just happy to be involved because it gives us a chance to give something back to a charity that has helped us both through difficult times. Having lost my dad to cancer six years ago, Christies is another charity that means a lot to me. Steve’s efforts have been incredible in what he has done so far for both the Try Assist and Christies. I have taken part in some of his past challenges and have witnessed first-hand what he put himself through in aid of others. Although our circumstances are very different, I have drawn inspiration from Steve and use it in my own rehabilitation.”
An independent Quad bike ride around the country, sponsored walks and a parachute jump, are just a few fund raisers that Jimmy and Pete have undertaken. For Jimmy, the former Wakefield and Dewsbury player, this year marks the tenth anniversary since he broke his neck playing for Sharlston Rovers. He wants to mark this occasion by testing himself in the most extreme of challenges.
He said: “Obviously the main reason for wanting to take on such a challenge is because of the two fantastic funds that it is in aid of. Try Assist has done wonderful things for myself and a number of other seriously injured rugby players. Most people will have been affected by Cancer in one way or another and it is important we continue to support the great work that they do at Christies.
“The challenge is going to be extremely difficult, because in the past running up to the event we have only had to train for one specific thing, but this has four different events. We will have to change things slightly in order to complete it.
“For me, the swimming part is going to be the toughest because we only have 45 minutes to get across. I have been training lying flat on a surf board, which will make this part of the challenge achievable for us. We will be quad biking through the night, which might not sound difficult to others, but with the disabilities that me and Pete have, I can assure everyone it is. The hand tricycle is something neither of us has done before and will take a lot of training to get up to speed.
“Personally, it will be ten years since my accident and by taking part in these sorts of challenges, it means I am still achieving things in my own life, which others said I never would. I also like to think that people lying in their hospital beds, which are in a similar situation to what me and Pete was, can read about us and gain inspiration from it.
“It’s all about turning a negative into a positive and that’s exactly what Steve has done. He did not have to do what he’s done and no one would have blamed him if he had just carried on with his own life. But by achieving the things he has against adversity, it spreads positivity and effects people to want to do better and I admire him for that.”
This will be Prescott’s 2nd gruelling event of the year after already completing the Paris to London challenge. Steve was joined by Paul Sculthorpe as the pair ran both the Paris and London marathon’s and rowed the English Channel in-between. This time they will be up to 30 participants involved and Steve is delighted that Jimmy and Pete will be two of them.
He said: “It is fantastic that Jimmy & Pete are taking part in the Engage Mutual Race to the Grand Final! They are both such an inspiration to many people who have severe spinal injuries. I am so proud of both of them. It is going to be a tough extreme challenge for the fittest person but even more so for Pete & Jimmy. I am sure they will get through the event like the rest of us, we will pull together!”