Marathon dream of a hero

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Brave South Yorkshire war hero Ben Parkinson supported an inspirational runner as he set off on the first of 66 ultra-marathons in 66 days in each of the UK’s official cities to raise money for soldiers and their families.

Super-fit Andy McMenemy was joined by Lance Bombardier Parkinson, the most seriously wounded British serviceman to survive his injuries, as he started his amazing feat in Leeds.

Dad-of-one Andy, aged 49, a business mentor and son of a former soldier, will run 66 consecutive ultra-marathons - 31.07 miles or 50kms, five miles longer than a standard marathon - with no rest days, in a record attempt dubbed Challenge66.

Ben, 26, of Bessacarr, Doncaster, who lost both legs and broke his back, hips and ribs in a landmine blast in Afghanistan in 2006, came along to support Andy - who is aiming to raise £1 million for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity - which helps soldiers, former soldiers and their families.

The brave paratrooper, who has received a new pair of prosthetic legs which he is learning how to use, said: “I am doing really well at the moment and I am excited to be here. I’m proud of Andy for all he’s doing.

“I would like to join in with marathons when I can use my legs properly. I have only used them a little bit at the moment, but I am comfortable using them already.”

Ben’s mum Diane Dernie, 53, added: “The Soldiers’ Charity have been very important for Ben, they did the work on the house that let him come home after he had been in hospital for 18 months so we can never thank them enough.”