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Harry's HemiHelpers

Graham Johnson and family spent from January to July 2012 training and getting ready for their Gold Challenge, nothing less than a Pentathlon. Graham takes up the story…


Our son, Harry, was 8 months old when we found out he'd had a stroke when he was in his mother´s womb. After the initial shock, we gradually started looking at ways to maximise his potential and found HemiHelp.

Harry's uncle, Sam, found information about Gold Challenge, whilst trying to find a family activity to raise money for HemiHelp. There were many challenges, but we chose the "Pentathlon" of cycling (40km), rowing (8km), running (10km), swimming (1500m) and walking (2km).

Signing up in January we had 7 months to train. We were also logging our training distances, aiming to get a team total of 2012km before our main event on July 14th.

We told the family our plans and suddenly we had a team of 7! We spanned various fitness levels; from me, who had not done any exercise since Harry arrived and had become something of a flubber-wubber, to my cousin, who had done many challenges for charity, including Land’s End to John O'Groats.

Then we had to choose our team name: Ginger Ninjas? Harry's Heroes? Harry's HemiHelpers seemed to be a nice mix and the team was final.

I started training in January, using an app on my phone. My first 12 minute assessment run just about broke me! How was I going to do this challenge?! The app had a timetable linked to my diary and suddenly it was nagging me to go for a run! I managed my first 10km run in April and then started adding in the cycling too.

The day itself was amazing; with a bleary-eyed 7.30am start. Family and friends cheered us on, kept us supplied with drinks and ferried the bikes and kayaks around. It was exhausting, but brilliant, and we all completed the challenge. The walk (or hobble) was from the swimming pool to a local pub, where we had a well-earned pint and lunch, before an evening party.

As a thank you, we received 5 tickets to the Paralympic swimming. What a fantastic and humbling experience! The Olympic Park atmosphere was amazing and we got to see Liz Johnson take breaststroke bronze!

It was a great year, getting fitter, raising money for HemiHelp and being inspired by the Paralympics; I'm already planning Harry's 2028 Paralympics application!

Do you want to know more about Harry? Watch the 'Mini Superhuman' video

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