Forty years on from breaking her neck in a riding accident and becoming paralysed, stud owner Sharon Mynard has completed thousands of miles in a wheelchair challenge for charity.

Buckinghamshire-based Sharon embarked on a 2,795-mile virtual journey around the coast of Great Britain in November 2021, averaging more than two hours a day for 20 months.

Her ‘pushathon’ challenge, which raised almost £6,000 for the charity Brain Tumour Research, ended last week on what marked 40 years since the day of her life-changing riding accident when she was 16.

Sharon seeing her pony Scilla for the first time after her accident

“It was one of those accidents that was done and dusted in a second,” said Sharon, who runs a stud and livery yard near Aylesbury. “I worked for a dealer and was put on a young horse, which may or may not have been the right thing to do, but I’d go back tomorrow if I could.

“Well, I jumped a jump and, as it landed, it put in the biggest bronc and shot me about 20ft in the air, and I came down on the back of my neck. I had falls off horses before then that were much scarier and hurt more, but this is the one that left its mark.

“Initially I was taken to Leicester General Hospital but I was transferred to Stoke Mandeville Hospital, which has a National Spinal Injuries Centre (NSIC) and was a centre of excellence at the time.

“I had to have police escorts at every county boundary because they couldn’t risk damaging my nerves any more or it would have been curtains for me.

“My neck is held together with what was described as a metal coat hook and they grafted some bone out of my hip to stabilise it, but I did a good job of severing my spinal cord, which is why I’ve got no feeling from my chest down and very little movement in my hands.”

Sharon’s inspiration for her ‘pushathon’ came following the death of her friend, show producer Rory Gilsenan (pictured above), to a brain tumour in April 2020, and her partner, Tim Belfield, who has had two brain tumours removed.

Rory rode several of Sharon’s horses, including Dexter’s Puzzle, who he competed at Horse of the Year Show and Royal Windsor. He died at the age of 50, 18 months after being diagnosed with a glioblastoma (GBM).

Sharon and Tim

Tim, 58, has had two low-grade meningiomas removed, the first in 2006 and the second in November 2018. He has lost his sense of smell and taste, and suffers from depression and anxiety as a result.

Sharon completed her challenge in Bournemouth, Dorset, on Wednesday 26 July.

“It was actually quite tough because there’s a camber on the path, I assume to help water drain off when the waves brush up it,” she said. “This meant I had quite a lot of pain in my right shoulder and arm the day after, because that was the one having to work the hardest.

“But I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day, it was stunning pushing along the promenade. As we got closer to Bournemouth, the people in beach huts started clapping and created quite a momentum.

“I felt very emotional to finish because there were times I didn’t know I would get that far. At Christmas I was so far behind, because of illness, that I didn’t know I’d be able to catch up.

“The only way I could get back on target was to do more than an extra mile each day, which added more pressure throughout the winter. But I worked hard and we got there.

“It was very special because I had all my family and friends there, and they’ve been with me, picking up the pieces and supporting me all along.”

The money Sharon raised is enough to sponsor two days of research at one of the charity’s four Centres of Excellence, each day costing £2,740.

“I wish it could have been a lot more but it’s still two full days of research and I know it all helps,” said the 56-year-old, who has completed previous fundraisers for the charity.

“I’m feeling a bit lost now. It’s amazing how much the challenge helped clear my head. Pushing’s become a bit of a habit so I’m going to continue it as a form of exercise.”

Charlie Allsebrook, community development manager for Brain Tumour Research, added: “We congratulate Sharon on finishing what has been a very time-consuming and physically exerting 20-month challenge. We’re really grateful for her continued support and look forward to seeing what fundraising initiative she comes up with next.

“Brain tumours are indiscriminate and kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer, yet just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease since records began in 2002. We’re determined to change this but it’s only by working together we will be able to improve treatment options for patients and, ultimately, find a cure.”

To support Sharon’s fundraising, click here

Images from Brain Tumour Research

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