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Former Grantham man triumphs in New York despite illness

A former Grantham man who was diagnosed with a functional neurological disorder three years ago has completed the New York marathon.

John Bennett, a former Royal Navy engineer, was diagnosed with the mental health condition in 2015 after experiencing stroke- like symptoms.

The 39-year-old who lived in Grantham before joining the Royal Navy said: “My symptoms continued to get worse until I could no longer walk independently. For such an active person this was extremely distressing.”

It wasn’t until a month later that John was diagnosed with a functional neurological disorder, a mental health condition which occurs due to difficulties with processing distressing feelings such as stress and anxiety.

John, whose family are still in Grantham, added: “Instead of experiencing these emotions in the usual way, my brain converted them into physical symptoms, disrupting my motor co-ordination and leaving me unable to do most day to day activities independently.”

John was also later diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, adding: “Whilst it was a relief to have a diagnosis, it was then a long road back as I have had to learn how to retrain my brain and body.”

John Bennett (5737832)
John Bennett (5737832)

Before being diagnosed, John led an active life in he Royal Navy with a passion for travel, adventure and extreme sports.

He was no stranger to tough challenges having already completed ultra marathons through the Amazon rain forest in 2007, the Gobi desert in 2010 and regularly competing in triathlons.

After learning how to walk again, John was referred to The Not Forgotten Association, a military charity which aims at putting the fun and enjoyment back into the lives of those who have proudly served with the British military and are now suffering.

John added: “They invited my wife and I to join them at a range of great events including a Christmas party at St James’ Palace, afternoon tea at Buckingham Palace and a weekend away in the countryside with other sick and injured service personnel and veterans. These activities gave me something to look forward to and made me feel like I was valued again.”

“As I started to make progress, they suggested that they could support me in the New York Marathon. This was an amazing opportunity that I couldn’t say no to, even though it was going to be a big challenge.”

John travelled to New York last month and competed in the gruelling 26-mile marathon in just five hours.

He added: “It was my first marathon since being diagnosed and it was amazing.”

John, who is now a proud dad to nine-month-old Ruby, is looking at other running events closer to home and plans to take part in the Invictus Games in 2020. He added: “I am proud of what I have accomplished living with this condition and would like to show others with it that they can do the same.”

There is still time to make a donation by visiting www.justgiving.com/fundraising/john-bennett27


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