Firefighters finish gruelling challenge in Portsmouth

TIRED Phil Jackson, left and Stu Vince arrive in Gunwharf Quays. ''and inset, Michael Paxman is hugged by Stu.  Pictures: Malcolm Wells (121985-1131)

TIRED Phil Jackson, left and Stu Vince arrive in Gunwharf Quays. ''and inset, Michael Paxman is hugged by Stu. Pictures: Malcolm Wells (121985-1131)

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THERE were tears of triumph as two brave firefighters completed a gruelling endurance challenge in dramatic style.

Crowds cheered and whistled as Stu Vince and Phil Jackson ran across a white finish line with their heads held high in Gunwharf Quays.

HAPPY Michael Paxman is hugged by Stu.  Picture: Malcolm Wells (121985-7101)

HAPPY Michael Paxman is hugged by Stu. Picture: Malcolm Wells (121985-7101)

The pair had rowed, cycled and ran to Land’s End and back over the last month as part of their Big Donor Challenge.

The men took part in the challenge because they want to get more people interested in becoming donors.

Donning fluorescent jackets, Mr Vince and Mr Jackson, of Cosham fire station, hugged each other as they made it to the finish.

They were met by scores of proud friends and family members.

An emotional Mr Vince, 36, who donated one of his kidneys to family friend Michael Paxman, 20, last year, said: ‘It’s been tough, emotional and very draining.

‘The reaction from people has been amazing. I never thought so many people would turn out.

As part of the men’s journey – which saw them run 260 miles over 11 days to Land’s End – they visited other fire stations and urged people to sign up to the donor register.

The men were due to row all the way back to Portsmouth from Land’s End, but bad weather meant they had to come ashore only two days into their return leg.

Mr Vince said: ‘The first day was fine because we had a south-westerly wind on our side.

‘But a swell came in the next day – there was just no way we could continue on water.’

Mr Jackson, 45, had to be treated for blisters on his feet by nurses at a walk-in health clinic in Falmouth.

He said: ‘It’s been an amazing journey, one that is so difficult to describe.

‘It’s been the most physically demanding challenge I have ever took part in but at no point did I want to give up.

‘We’re now planning what else we can do to raise awareness of being a donor.’

The firefighters also managed to collect more than £6,000 in sponsorship from friends, family and people who followed their progress on the internet.

The money will go to Queen Alexandra Hospital, in Cosham, and Southampton General Hospital.

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