Sam Perkins

One More Marathon: Pushing the Limits

Fundraising for Stand Against MND
raised of £10,000 target
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Event: London Marathon 2023, on 23 April 2023
Participants: Chrissie Wellington OBE, Steph Cobb, Tom Rawling, Frank McGowan.
Stand Against MND

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RCN 1187436
We Fund research and palliative care to Improve outcomes for MND patients


Sam Perkins might have lost all movement due to the ravaging effects of motor neurone disease, but he’s determined nothing will stop him from completing the TCS London Marathon on Sunday, April 23.

The 41-year-old project manager from East Leake in Leicestershire has recruited Britain’s four-time Ironman world champion Chrissie Wellington to lead a support team of four as they prepare to push Sam over 26.2 miles to raise funds and awareness for Sam’s charity Stand Against MND (SAM).

Sam is one of 10 people who have been provided with a place as assisted wheelchair participants by the organisers to give those unable to complete the course under their own steam the opportunity to be part of the event. The initiative was successfully introduced in October’s 2022 TCS London Marathon.

Formerly a keen Ironman triathlete, Sam had MND diagnosed in 2019 after suffering shortness of breath and being admitted to hospital with pneumonia because he was unable to clear fluid from lungs. The aggressive strand of the disease meant his condition quickly regressed and left him relying on a ventilator to breathe. He lost all movement in the months that followed.

Yet remarkably, Sam never lost his zest for life or wonderful, self deprecating sense of humour. With a strong family and support network behind him, he launched the charity Stand Against MND to raise funds into finding a cure. Despite the further setback of a pandemic which left Sam shielding and putting many plans on hold, the charity still launched numerous initiatives including a series of children’s books and Artists Against MND, showcasing and selling works of local creatives. To date the charity has raised more than £130,000.

Last July, a flagship event took place when Sam was pushed around the half-marathon of the final leg of the Outlaw Triathlon in Nottingham. With Sam’s former team-mate Steph (also part of the support team in London) swimming 1.2 miles and step-father Nick cycling 56 miles, a cast of willing pushers including former players of Sam’s beloved Nottingham Forest helped Sam complete an emotional 13.1 miles in a specially adapted racing chair.

It was during the build-up to the challenge that four-time Ironman World champion and distance record holder Chrissie Wellington became aware of Sam’s story and the two forged a bond. Sam, a two-time Ironman finisher had used Chrissie’s achievements and renowned positive outlook as inspiration for his own tri endeavours.

Finding a cure to MND had long been a cause close to Chrissie’s heart too. During her professional triathlon career, she had been introduced to the parents of John Blais, a US triathlete who had contracted MND (ALS) and completed the Hawaii Ironman a year before his death in 2007. His determined quote of: "Even if I have to be rolled across the finish line, I'm finishing" was adopted by Chrissie, who would return to the finish line after each race to perform a logroll over the line to continue the awareness.

When the opportunity arose for Chrissie to lead the team to push SAM in London, she jumped at the chance. Chrissie says: “Sam’s story struck a chord with me and, after getting to know him, I became even more determined to help support and raise awareness for his charity in any way I could. Sam is an amazing individual and his attitude to make the best of every situation despite being hit with the cruellest of diseases is an example to us all. 

“I have taken part in the TCS London Marathon a number of times, but always with a focus on myself and my own performance. This April will be so refreshingly different. It's fantastic to see the work the TCS London Marathon organisers are doing to make the event as inclusive as possible and I’m so grateful for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help someone else realise a lifelong dream; someone who inspires me and who I am so proud to call a friend. 

“To be part of a team with Sam, Frank, Tom and Steph - and his wider support crew - is an honour and privilege and, with the unrivalled atmosphere at the TCS London Marathon, I know this is going to be a phenomenal experience that we will never forget.”

The team is completed by Sam’s live-in carer and former Scottish international runner Frank McGowan, Sam’s brother-in-law, doctor and trail runner, Tom Rawling, and Steph Cobb, who’ll be swapping the wetsuit for the running shoes to support Sam’s latest challenge.

The logistics are slightly more complicated than a regular wheelchair push. As well as an adapted chair that can support Sam’s neck and head in a comfortable enough position, the team will also be using a separate running buggy to transport a spare battery for Sam’s ventilator. 

Sam says: “I’ll be honest, As a triathlete, I was never a fast runner, and after a strong swim and bike my memories of Ironman marathons are just being overtaken for 26.2 miles. But the London Marathon has always been the one standalone marathon I said I’d train for if I ever got a place. 

“I never believed that would happen, and of course, I can’t do it in the conventional way. But I feel honoured to have this opportunity. I’m so grateful to the organisers, and I’m looking forward to soaking up every last drop of the fabulous atmosphere this race provides. Plus, I’m confident however slowly we complete it, it’ll still be my fastest marathon ever!”

About the charity

Stand Against MND

Verified by JustGiving

RCN 1187436
Sam Perkins was diagnosed with MND at the age of just 37. Sam and his wife Emma established the charity Stand Against MND in 2019, with the aim of funding MND research and supporting patients and their families in need of palliative care. Thank you so much for joining us in the Stand Against MND.

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