Paralysed woman from Quainton to attempt wheelchair marathon in Milton Keynes in memory of Rory Gilsenan

A 53-year-old woman, paralysed since the age of 16, will take on a wheelchair marathon around Milton Keynes’ main shopping centre on Sunday 6 September.
Sharon working in the yardSharon working in the yard
Sharon working in the yard

Sharon Maynard from Quainton near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, where she has a stud and livery yard, is dedicating her marathon efforts around Centre MK to the memory of champion showman Rory Gilsenan, who was also from Buckinghamshire, who died earlier this year from a brain tumour.

She is raising funds for the national charity Brain Tumour Research.

Sharon, 53, who broke her neck in a riding accident, leaving her a tetraplegic, had to postpone her original attempt earlier this year because of the lockdown brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

She has been training hard, covering almost 20k in her most recent big push and said she had ‘more in the tank’.

Her hands take a real bashing, gripping the wheels to maintain momentum, reducing to tatters quite a number of pairs of gloves, worn to try and minimise blisters.

Sharon said: “When I had my riding accident aged 16 it was devastating.

"I felt my life was over.

"But I still went on to get married and although we are no longer together, we were married for over 20 years.

"I have a lovely 26-year-old son, Toby, from that marriage, and of course I have my horses, which are the reason I get up in the morning and the reason I got to know Rory.

"Rory and I were great friends for more than 20 years and he rode some of my horses, even taking one – Dexter’s Puzzle - to the Horse of the Year Show a couple of times.

“It was absolutely tragic that such a lovely man, with such a gift for getting along with people, should be struck down with brain cancer.

"Although Rory battled with downright dogged determination, even winning at the Royal International Horse Show at Hickstead while undergoing treatment, he passed away 18 months after diagnosis with a glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) in April this year.

“Rory was the breadwinner of his family and his youngest daughter, Katie, was only 18 years old when he died.

“It’s terrible that in this day and age there are still cancers like brain which are incurable. I am aiming to raise £10,000 for Brain Tumour Research, based in Milton Keynes, to help find more effective treatments and ultimately a cure for patients with this devastating disease.

"Thank you to everyone who has already sponsored me and brought me close to halfway to my target.”

Sharon will be beginning her marathon challenge by the Guest Suite in Centre MK around 8am on Sunday and will do circuits inside the shopping centre for about two hours until she needs to move outside because of shoppers.

She is hoping to complete her charity pushathon in seven to eight hours, conscious that the uneven paving-slabs outside the centre will slow her down.

Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer, yet historically just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.

Charlie Allsebrook, community development manager at Brain Tumour Research, said: “We are very grateful to Sharon for her support and wish her all the best for her marathon challenge.

“We have recently launched a petition calling for the national investment in research into brain tumours to be increased to £35 million a year. Please take a couple of minutes to add your signature.”

Brain Tumour Research funds sustainable research at dedicated centres in the UK.

It also campaigns for the Government and the larger cancer charities to invest more in research into brain tumours in order to speed up new treatments for patients and, ultimately, to find a cure.

The charity is calling for a national annual spend of £35 million in order to improve survival rates and patient outcomes in line with other cancers such as breast cancer and leukaemia and is also campaigning for greater repurposing of drugs.

To donate to Sharon’s fundraising, go to Sharon’s challenge on Facebook by searching for the public group Pushathon