Bedfordshire dad living with Motor Neurone Disease breaks swimming Guinness World Record

Credit: MND Association

Mark O'Brien, from Bedfordshire, who has broken the Guinness World Record for the longest distance swam by someone with MND.
Mark O'Brien, who has motor neurone disease, with his Guinness World Record. Credit: MND Association

A father living with motor neurone disease has raised almost £25,000 for charity while breaking a swimming world record.

Mark O'Brien, 54, from Slip End, Bedfordshire, smashed the Guinness World Record by completing an 11,000 metre swim, despite cold lake temperatures and his illness making breathing a struggle.

The challenge at Denham Lake, Buckinghamshire, took five and a half hours to complete and is the longest distance swam non-stop in open water by anyone with motor neurone disease (MND).

MND is a rapidly progressive, terminal illness which affects the brain and spinal cord, attacking nerves that control movement so muscles no longer work.

Mr O’Brien was cheered on by more than 200 people while taking on the challenge in September, with the Guinness World Record confirmed on Thursday.

He suffered a groin strain part way through the swim, so he had to complete the last 7,000 metres only using one leg to kick.

Mark O'Brien completing his world record-breaking swim, alongside his three children. Credit: MND Association

As a result of the swim, the 54-year-old has raised £24,000 for the MND Association - a charity which supports those living with MND and their families.

Mark said: “I am relieved and proud that I have somehow managed to complete this challenge. 

"In May [2023], I really did not think I would be in any kind of physical condition to attempt the challenge with my progressive MND.

"Through the wave of kindness and encouragement from friends, families, and people I did not previously know, this pushed me to the finish line."

Mark O'Brien with his three children, David, Lauren and Georgia. (Left to right) Credit: MND Association

Mr O'Brien's fundraising is supporting the charity's Hertfordshire Branch and Bedfordshire Group as well as its research programme.

Craig Glenday, of Guinness World Records, said: "Mark truly embodies what it really means to be the best in the world, and has undoubtedly earned his Guinness WorldRecords certificate.

"Despite battling freezing temperatures and bitter winds, and the challenges that this awful disease brings to bear, he has achieved his goal and will surely be an inspiration to anyone facing their own challenges in life."

Mr O'Brien said he was considering taking on further world record attempts for the future.

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