A Swansea man who is on a mission to lose over 21 stone has taken on a challenge to swim 130km before the end of the month to raise money for dementia research.
Chris Larkin, who weighs around 27 stone having been more than 36 stone two years ago, has taken on the swimming challenge to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK in honour of his parents who both died with vascular dementia.
The 59-year-old is taking part in the charity’s Running Down Dementia campaign, which challenges people to run 100km during the summer. However, as the grandfather-of-three cannot run due to a knee injury, he has been clocking up the kilometres in the Village Hotel pool.
The lighting engineer began the challenge at the end of May and originally targeted 100km, but he has now upped his target by 30km and for the final 2km he hopes to swim in the sea from Boscombe Pier to Bournemouth Pier on Friday, August 31.
He said: “I’ve made a lot of progress with losing weight and had lost over 10 stone, but in February I injured my knee and got arthritis. That really set me back and I got depressed about it. I had a dream of running a marathon, but that’s not going to be possible now.
“I saw Running Down Dementia on Facebook and I thought ‘damn, I’d love to do that’. My physio had suggested I do aquatherapy and then I thought maybe I could do the challenge in the pool.
“I started walking up and down the pool, then would swim one length in four. Within a month I was walking a length then swimming a length and by the next month I was just swimming.
“I originally planned to do 100km, but then somebody suggested that it was maybe too much for me and that I shouldn’t be disappointed if I didn’t make it. That was like a red rag to a bull for me, so I decided to up my target to 130km and will be swimming 80 lengths twice a day, five days a week.
“The challenge has been great for getting me back on track with my weight loss. After feeling down earlier in the year I’m now full of hope.
“It’s also great to be supporting a cause that’s so close to my heart as both my parents had dementia.
“My dad died in 2013 and then not long after his funeral my mum went downhill and we realised we were going through the same thing with her. She died last year.
“My mum and dad were wonderful people, but my memory of them is clouded by the last few years of their lives. It was so undignified.”
Chris began piling on the pounds in his mid-30s when his lifestyle became much more sedentary after taking on a new job.
He said: “I was a very fit guy in my 20s and early 30s. I ran a marathon, I used to run five miles every other day, I would cycle 25 miles at weekends and played squash regularly. But I never ate well, I’d eat whatever I wanted.
“I got a new job as a sales rep and was travelling around a lot and stopped exercising. I started to put on weight, around a pound a month. I didn’t notice it at first, but over a long period the weight piled up.
“I had a bad back injury in 2015 and could barely walk for eight months. I reached my heaviest weight in June 2016 – 512lbs. At that weight I thought my life was over, it was awful.”
Chris had initial success in his weight-loss mission by changing his diet to avoid processed food, but says he took it to the next level when he joined the Beachbody on Demand programme, getting help from a personal trainer to exercise and following the company’s 2b Mindset nutrition plan.
He will be joined on his pier to pier swim by four Beachbody coaches from across the UK, who he has not met, but who were inspired to join him after hearing about his story.
He said: “I’m currently 380lbs, although I did get to 350lbs before I injured my knee. My aim is to get to 212lbs, so that would be 300lbs lost.”
Chris is among nearly 5,000 people taking part in Running Down Dementia this summer. They have so far run more than 385,000km and raised over £290,000.
Julia Sobik, Senior Sporting Events & Partnerships Manager at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “We are in awe of Chris and his amazing weight-loss journey. It is brilliant that taking on the swimming challenge and fundraising for dementia research is helping him in his weight-loss mission.
“Chris and the thousands of people who are taking part in Running Down Dementia are striking a blow in the battle against dementia. The vital funds raised will power world-class dementia research projects and help bring an end to the fear, harm and heartbreak of dementia.”
Chris has so far raised around £650. To sponsor him go to https://runningdowndementia2018.everydayhero.com/uk/chris-17