Chris Stennett is gearing up for Ironman Austria later this month.
A man with a muscle-wasting condition is taking on a gruelling Ironman triathlon to raise money for charity.
Chris Stennett, of Felixstowe, Suffolk, said that within two months of his Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) diagnosis, aged 26, he decided he “wasn’t going to let it hold me back”.
Now aged 30, the copywriter is gearing up for Ironman Austria on June 18.
The challenge sees competitors tackle a 2.4 mile (3.9km) swim and a 112 mile (180.2km) bike ride, rounded off with a 26.2 mile (42.2km) marathon run.
Mr Stennett, who attempted Ironman Austria in 2021 but did not finish, hopes to complete the challenge this time on his second attempt, and to do so within 17 hours.
FSHD is a muscle-wasting condition that results in weakening of the muscles in the face, shoulder blades and upper arms.
There is currently no cure.
Mr Stennett, once a keen rugby player, was diagnosed with the condition in 2019.
He had been referred to a neurologist after a shoulder dislocation, following repeated rugby injuries and over 10 years of shoulder weakness.
A genetic test confirmed he was living with FSHD, a condition that affects approximately 2,500 people in the UK.
“The risk of injury was too high for me to continue playing rugby or practising mixed martial arts – two hobbies that gave me the most enjoyment,” said Mr Stennett.
“I’ve always been athletic – and at the age of 26 I was supposed to be entering my prime, but instead I was having to retire early.
“It knocked me for six and made me feel down.
“Within two months of getting the diagnosis, I decided I wasn’t going to let it hold me back, and I decided to complete the Ironman triathlon challenge.
“It was something I’d always wanted to do once I’d stopped playing rugby.
“I knew the training would be good for me and would give me something to focus on.
“I thought to myself: I’m never going to get a better chance – who knows what will happen in 10 years’ time? I could be in a wheelchair by then.”
He is taking on the challenge to raise funds and awareness for Muscular Dystrophy UK, the national charity that supports those with muscle wasting conditions.
Earlier this year, Mr Stennett took part in the Marbella 70.3 half Ironman and the TCS London Marathon, with Ironman Austria to be his third major challenge in three months.
Ahead of the ironman challenge, he said: “Living with a condition can be challenging.
“FSHD continues to sap my strength, but I remain strong-minded.
“Completing the open water swim with front crawl is a small concern because the muscles in my core are weak and I struggle with snaking in the water when I’m tired.
“I am a proficient breaststroke swimmer, so I have no doubt I will complete the swim, but by doing breaststroke I fatigue my legs before the cycle element even starts!”
Kiera Santry, senior challenge events officer at Muscular Dystrophy UK, said: “Chris has an inspiring story – and he has not let his diagnosis stop him from taking on multiple challenge events, including running the London Marathon in April 2023 for the charity.
“We’re so grateful to Chris for his ongoing support.
“The funds raised will continue to help Muscular Dystrophy UK support people living with muscle-wasting conditions and fund further research and treatment.”
Mr Stennett can be sponsored at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/fshd-ironman2