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Alcester man’s epic challenge was a ‘thank you’ to surgeons who saved his life

A BOWEL cancer patient from Alcester took on the epic challenge of cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats to thank surgeons for saving his life and to raise money for charity.

Alcester dad of two and granddad Mark Harrington, 62, arrived home on 21st June after a gruelling cycle ride of over a 100 miles a day for ten days.

He was accompanied on his herculean ride, wittily entitled Bowels In Motion, by friend Dean Hands and son Jordan Bingham, although sadly Jordan had to drop out due to injury on the fourth day.

“Dealing with the road conditions and lanes in Cornwall was a challenge,” Mark told the Herald. “It was still cold in the Highlands and we had a dreadful couple of days, especially as we were going against the wind, that was completely horrible.

“It’s been a sweet but bitter experience with Jordan having to drop out. He’d been determined to do it with me, and celebrate his 24th birthday as we finished the ride.”

What an achievement … Mark Harrington from Alcester has recently returned home having completed the marathon Lands End to John o' Groats bike ride. Photo: Mark Williamson
What an achievement … Mark Harrington from Alcester has recently returned home having completed the marathon Lands End to John o' Groats bike ride. Photo: Mark Williamson

Putting the fact that he got through the journey down to some amazing support, Mark continued: “Dean and I are both very strong-minded and that pulled us through. Mentally it was tough. I was pulled out of my comfort zone plenty of times but we had that determination. And we couldn’t have done it without my partner Vicky and her daughter Rachel in our fantastic support vehicle.”

Devoted family man Mark had always been fit and sporty, but last year he ended up in excruciating pain at accident and emergency at Warwick Hospital after previously being told three times his symptoms were stress and IBS-related.

Within 24 hours Mark had a significant bowel mass and 27 polyps removed, and he credits the skill of surgeon Mr Ferguson and the dedicated bowel cancer care team at Warwick Hospital for saving his life.

Mark then underwent three months of chemotherapy at Stratford Rigby Unit, where he says he received “exceptional care and support”.

Although he hasn’t received the all-clear yet, Mark feels like he's been given a second chance at life.

“Those first two months were pretty, pretty rough. It was quite an invasive operation and it takes time to settle down but at the time you pretty much don’t believe that it’s ever going to come right.

“After chemo I went away to Cornwall to get my head around everything. I just needed to think about how I was going to get better. I wanted to repay the people at Warwick Hospital for saving my life, and I thought I can ride a bike.”

Mark’s charity bike ride has so far raised almost £10,000 for the hospital’s bowel care unit, who are hoping to invest in specialised robotic surgery equipment, and the After Bowel Cancer (ABC) Club, a support group for those treated at South Warwickshire University NHS Foundation Trust.

Mark Harrington and Dean Hands reach John O'Groats
Mark Harrington and Dean Hands reach John O'Groats

“My motivation is also to give those people going through a similar thing the message that you can still live your dreams,” said Mark. “It’s devastating but you can recover with a bit of luck and determination you not only survive but get back on your feet and achieve the things you wanted to do.”

For his next adventure Mark is looking to climb Kilimanjaro in 2025, but for now he’s still taking stock.

”It’s only 18 months since I had that operation, and little over a year since I had chemo, so it’s all been pretty amazing. I might not have survived,” observed Mark, who has worked in the construction sector. “Quality of life is more important than work. I’m debating about taking an early retirement and looking at the finances of that. You’ve got to put yourself first.”

To donate visit www.justgiving.com and search for ‘Bowels In Motion’.

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