EX-England rugby star and fundraising champion Alastair Hignell of Cambridge is not one to let limitations get the better of him.
Despite suffering with multiple sclerosis since 1999, Alastair played a major part in a marathon fundraising effort – even finding the time and energy to cheer on his heroes at various points around the 13 mile course.
The former BBC commentator, who now spends much of his time raising funds for the Multiple Sclerosis Resource Centre, supported a team of 100 runners who took part in a half marathon in Gloucestershire last weekend.
The runners were participating as Higgy’s Heroes, the collective name given to Alastair’s army of fundraising comrades. And despite facing obvious limitations himself, Alastair, who was born in Cambridge but now lives in Stroud, Gloucestershire, managed to get around on the day thanks to a mobility scooter which has changed his life.
He said: “I have two Quingo scooters, a Quingo Sport and a Quingo Air. Both are five wheeled scooters which means they are more flexible and can do more than the average mobility scooter.
“I can’t walk very far and I can’t do stairs. I could walk to the end of the street but beyond that I would struggle – I’d probably fall or trip. I’m resigned to a scooter to get me about and do everyday things, like attending physio which is about one mile away. I go once or twice a week at the moment but I just wouldn’t be able to go without it.
“At the half marathon for instance, I used the Quingo Sport to get around on the day, cheering and supporting at various points along the course. Stroud is very hilly and my Quingo Sport literally cruises up the hills. It copes with potholes and uneven surfaces, it’s fantastic.”
Alastair, who collected a CBE for his fundraising efforts just a week before the half marathon, dedicates much of his time to the MSRC, which offers support, guidance and advice to MS sufferers and their families.
He said: “I’m a patron of the MSRC and spend as much time as possible to help the charity, promoting and raising money. It’s about making lives easier and ensuring that people can still live a quality of life. Yes, MS is a difficult disease but there are ways of getting the help if the right support is there.
“The MSRC believes that ‘life is for living’ and I think that Quingo scooters have helped me live that philosophy by allowing me to retain so much of my independence.
“Both Quingo and the MSRC show that even if you have a limitation with mobility, you can still do day to day things with the right support. My scooter helps me with the daily tasks that would otherwise be a challenge and enables me to do them without restriction.”
So what next for Alastair’s fundraising activities? In between family life, physiotherapy and a very busy social life, he is currently organising a charity bike ride in Gloucestershire in December – and is keen to get participants on mobility scooters.
“I will be taking part on my Quingo Sport, why not? It’s about having that independence and mobility to be able to do things like this, and it would be great to get more participants on mobility scooters.
“I was made aware of a group of people with MS called the Red Wheelies who rode the length of Hadrian’s Wall on mobility scooters, how inspiring! It would be fantastic to do a challenge like that under the Higgy’s Heroes name to raise money for the MSRC. Has anybody any ever done Land’s End to John O’Groats on a mobility scooter?!
“The idea of Higgy’s Heroes is to put the challenge out there to people. If someone has an idea for a charity challenge, especially one that overcomes a mobility restriction, we encourage them to get in touch and see if we can make it a reality between us.”
For more information please visit www.msrc.co.uk