Triple canal challenge for Gary

Gary Firth is planning the epic charity challenge in memory of his dad John
Gary Firth is planning the epic charity challenge in memory of his dad John

A Leigh man is preparing for an incredible charity challenge taking on the entire length of a major canal no fewer than three times.

Gary Firth will kayak the 127 miles of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal before cycling back along the towpath and then running the entire distance from Yorkshire to Merseyside.

When you’re fund-raising you want people to be impressed so I added the cycle in

Gary Firth

If that were not enough Gary is also planning to tack another 15 or so miles onto his marathon effort by taking in the Leigh branch of the waterway at least once.

The extraordinary endurance test is raising money for Parkinson’s UK in memory of his dad John, who fought a long battle against the condition after being diagnosed relatively young.

Gary said he was originally planning a less unusual fund-raiser but the need to capture people’s attention to raise money led him to devise a more ambitious programme.

The 43-year-old said: “I started out by saying I would run the canal and that didn’t have the reaction I wanted. When you’re fund-raising you want people to be impressed so I added the cycle in.

“I was then talking to my brother and said one of my inspirations was a guy who did a triathlon swimming, cycling and running between John O’Groats and Land’s End. I joked to my brother that I couldn’t swim along the canal but he said I could kayak it.

“Obviously I’m most worried about the kayaking but I know how to do it and I’ve got all summer to get there.

“I’m not going to do the 7.5 miles each way of the Leigh branch every time but I will do it one way at least. I can’t go down the canal and not stop off in my hometown.”

Gary’s challenge will begin on August 25 and he expects it to take around two weeks to complete.

He is preparing for the endurance feat with this weekend’s half marathon in Wigan and is also in the entry for the Manchester Marathon.

Gary says he is going through all this to raise as much money and awareness for Parkinson’s UK as possible and has set an ambitious target of £2,000.

He said: “I really want to change attitudes because people don’t understand how Parkinson’s affects sufferers or those around them.

“My dad was very active with the Round Table and charities and in business and it took his mobility and communication. The shaking hands is the mildest part of it.

“My dad also found it difficult to get help because he wasn’t over 65.”

To donate, visit www.justgiving.com/gary-firth3