Janet Kerr fought constant pain to tackle the route as part of a year of challenges.
A grandmother has completed a solo cycle of the North Coast 500 to raise money for Parkinson’s UK.
Janet Kerr, a former teacher from Lochgelly who has been living with Parkinson’s for three years, is marking her 50th birthday by completing 50 miles of cycling, swimming, scootering or skating in each of 50 weeks of this year.
Last week, she completed her toughest challenge yet by tackling the North Coast 500 route, beginning and ending in Inverness and over nine arduous days taking in Applecross’s famous Bealach na Ba pass, Durness, and Lairg.
Janet, who lives in almost constant pain and has to avoiding walking whenever possible, said the cycle was “without a doubt” the hardest physical challenge she had ever faced.
“Having Parkinson’s can look like an invisible disability, but how it impacts on me is that my right side is affected,” she said.
“It could be compared to having a stroke - there is a lack of power in my right leg and hand/arm, a nothingness. Tests have shown I have a quarter of the power on that side. Often the leg doesn’t engage on the bike and I know that is happening when I can’t get a smooth revolution; it clunks away around. My leg feels like a log and my foot feels heavy.
“It’s like trying to walk but having someone wrapped around you, trying to stop you and weigh you down. My main symptom is chronic pain, but it’s something I’ve learned to live with and manage as best I can, but the additional pain of the challenge itself took me to a whole new threshold.
“The positive that has come out of having Parkinson’s is that I would never have undertaken a challenge like this to truly find out how determined and resilient I actually am. Just because I have Parkinson’s, it doesn’t mean the end. Through hard work and consistency of exercise; is the main reason I am able to do this. This was a celebration of being alive and a mantra that I had to repeat to get me through the challenge.”
Janet, who has raised almost £5,000 for Parkinson’s UK so far, thanked everyone who has donated for their support during the year.
“The support and kindness of everyone from complete strangers to my friends and family has been overwhelming. It was tough going through some atrocious weather and many times I could hardly see through a mixture of rain and tears.
“But I was determined to get there and not feel like I’d let anyone down - the support kept me going and I’ll be forever grateful for that.”
Emma Hall, regional fundraiser for Parkinson’s UK, said the charity was “absolutely thrilled” to see Janet complete her latest challenge.
She added: “This was an incredible personal challenge but her impact is much wider and it’s only through the efforts of people like Janet that Parkinson’s UK can continue to provide life enhancing local services across Scotland and fund world-leading research that one day will end Parkinson’s forever.”
Supporters can donate and follow Janet’s progress for the last ten weeks of her challenges via her JustGiving page.