A FORMER rugby league player put himself through one of sport’s toughest challenges of all to raise money for a Wigan special school attended by his cousin.
Andrew Crabtree, who played for Wigan Academy and became an England Schoolboys international, completed the gruelling Ironman UK triathlon in Bolton earlier this year in aid of Hope School and Hawkley Brook College in Marus Bridge.
Andrew, who is originally from Whelley but now lives in Golborne, was inspired to take on the daunting challenge of the triathlon, consisting of a 2.4 mile swim in Pennington Flash, a 112 mile bike ride and a full 26.2 marathon run, after seeing how his cousin Luke Unsworth had benefitted from going to the school.
His determination to take on one of the world’s longest and most difficult sporting events was all the more impressive as he had hardly any experience of swimming or cycling before beginning his training.
Andrew’s challenge certainly captured the imagination of his sponsors as he smashed his initial target to raise around £1,600 for the school to spend on sports and sensory equipment.
The success of his fund-raising also spurred him on during the long day of competition as he beat his pre-race target time by more than an hour to finish the course in a time of 13 hours and 56 minutes.
Andrew, 29, said: “It was completely different to anything I’d done before, much more about mental strength as well as the obvious requirement of being physically fit.
“The hardest part was starting the marathon. I’d just spent seven and a half hours on a bike and had the realisation I still had a full 26 miles to do.
“You also sit down in transition while you take off your cycling shoes and put running trainers on, and then you have to get back up and start again.
“Fortunately it was a nice day and the crowds really came out to cheer for everyone, which was nice. The fund-raising also spurred me on, once you’ve got sponsorship behind you there’s no giving up.”
Andrew presented the cheque from his fund-raising labours to Hope School’s assistant head teacher Helen Leach in a special assembly in front of the pupils.
The school’s head of seniors, Pauline Lynch, said: “Andrew has put in a magnificent effort with all the hard training that must have gone into the Ironman race, and the total is just amazing. We would like to buy some sports and sensory equipment with the donation, which will enrich the pupils’ lessons and give them greater opportunities than they already have.”