AN ex-soldier from Bromsgrove is taking on the challenge of a lifetime by racing a group of runners around the Isle of Wight in the name of putting an end to polio.
Jim Bennett is part of a four-man crew who, with the support of Bromsgrove Rotary Club, will be taking on the End Polio Now - Isle of Wight Challenge in July, where they will row around the island against a team of runners who will be racing on dry land.
What makes this challenge even more difficult for Jim is that he is still recovering from a major accident that affected his shoulder.
"A couple of years ago I was knocked from my motorbike in a traffic collision and got severe nerve damage in my right shoulder."
He also happens to have an unfortunate fear of the water. "I think it stems from when I watched the movie Jaws as a kid," he said.
Following his accident, Jim had to go through several operations and months of physiotherapy but is now getting back to full health.
"I was told that I nearly died three times but my recovery was enhanced as I had such incredible support from my family, friends and colleagues."
He now wants to help those who are suffering with mobility as he did and thinks that now is a great time to help raise money for people affected by polio, as there is a great chance to finally eradicate this terrible disease.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently declared the spread of polio is an international public health emergency.
The agency has said that outbreaks in Asia, Africa and the Middle East are an "extraordinary event" needing a co-ordinated "international response". The virus can invade the nervous system, causing paralysis and death in a matter of hours.
The crew have very limited rowing experience and Jim admitted he was more than a little nervous.
"When I saw the scale of what we had to do it was quite a shock, but it's exciting too," he said.
Jim is urging as many people to get involved and the team are even producing a map so that people can take part by proxy by checking how long the route is and getting on the treadmill or rowing machine to see if they can keep up. Several students at a local Bromsgrove School have already agreed to take up the challenge.
Most of the running team, organised by Jim’s sister Amanda, are from the West Midlands Police and Altered Images gym in Bromsgrove. Prior to the event (June 14) there will be a 24-hour rowing marathon held there to raise the profile of the cause as well as giving valuable training advice.
To find out more about the feat, visit the team's justgiving page at justgiving.com/bromsgroverotaryclub.