Guinness World Record: Dad with motor neurone disease from village near Luton is a record breaker after swimming challenge

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“I have never been really proud of myself. I was crushed by a wave of happiness and personal pride.”

A dad living with motor neurone disease (MND) from a village near Luton has shared his delight after getting his Guinness World Record in the post.

In September, 54-year-old Mark O’Brien, from Slip End, swam 11,000 metres at Denham Lake in Buckinghamshire. It took him five and a half hours to complete and is the longest distance swam non-stop in open water by anyone with the condition.

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Now, months on, he’s got the official certificate hanging up on his wall at home. Mark explained: “They are so incredibly thorough, you can't miss an eye or not cross a tee. You name it, I had to provide it to the world record adjudicators.

Mark posing with his certificate. Picture: Mark O'BrienMark posing with his certificate. Picture: Mark O'Brien
Mark posing with his certificate. Picture: Mark O'Brien

“From September 24 through until a week ago, I thought that there had to be something wrong, or they'd made a mistake. I was panicking, to be honest with you. When they gave me a call, and they sent the official certificate, I was absolutely elated. In some ways, I felt quite overwhelmed.”

Mark said that well wishes and outpouring of support from friends, family and the wider public has meant a lot to him. He said: “I'm very overwhelmed by everything, especially messages pouring in from support and love from strangers, family and friends. It's just been magical to get that.”

Now, Mark is taking himself on a well-deserved holiday to relax before throwing himself into a new challenge, details of which he is keeping a secret for now.

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In March 2022, Mark was diagnosed with the rare degenerative condition and decided to raise money for charity and push himself to attempt to beat this world record. So far, his fundraiser has totted up over £24,000 in donations.

To receive the certificate was monumental for Mark. He said: “I have never been really proud of myself. But last week, I was crushed in the best way possible by a wave of happiness and personal pride in myself.”

Mark compared opening his certificate to Christmas Day as a child: “When I got it, I just left it on the kitchen table. I didn't even want to open it. It transported me back to when I was a child and that level of childlike excitement. When I opened it up, I just kind of gave it a hug and I just didn’t want to let it go.”

Craig Glenday, Editor in Chief 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 World Records certificate.

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“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. Congratulations, Mark - welcome to the GWR family!"

As is expected with the condition, Mark’s health is starting to deteriorate, but at a slow pace. He said: “There has been a progression. I have some oxygen now at night when I need it. There is no cure for it and it gets progressively worse. I mean, I'm still fortunate. I'm definitely not taking that for granted.”