A Bolton man whose wife passed away from motor neurone disease is attempting to walk 100km (62 miles) in 24 hours to raise money to find a cure.

According to the NHS, motor neurone disease – which is also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease in the US – is an uncommon condition which affects the brain and nerves, causing weakness that gets worse over time.

The disease affected physicist Stephen Hawking, who lived with the condition for 55 years, and rugby player Rob Burrow, who sadly died from the disease on Sunday, June 2 – just four- and-a-half-years after revealing his diagnosis to the public.

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MND’s ‘brutal’ impact

Horwich man Neil Bowden knows the devastating impact of the disease well. He lost his wife Gill in August 2021, just over two years after she was diagnosed in March 2019.

He said: “If you looked at her in the March you wouldn’t have thought anything was wrong with her. by July she had lost the use of her hands, by the November she lost use of her legs.

“Gill was a very intelligent lass. She worked in education worked for John Moores’ University so she had all the faculties, all the brain, but the body just, one by one, limb by limb, stops working.

“It is as brutal as that.”

According to the Motor Neurone Disease Association, six people per day are diagnosed with MND, and six people per day die with the condition, which affects up to 5,000 adults in the UK at any one time.

Just one drug is available to treat the disease – Riluzole. According to the NHS, trials have shown a three-month longer survival rate in those taking the drugs, equating to about a 10 per cent survival improvement.

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100km in 24 hours

Following Gill's death, Neil volunteered for the MNDA, helping to provide volunteer counselling, for example.

Now, he wants to raise money to help fund professional help for those living with and affected by the condition.

The 100km hiking route will take Neil from Kendal through 2,500 metres of climbing in a loop past Lake Windermere.

He has already completed more than 1,000km of training so far in preparation for the walk, which he will complete alongside 39 others who have chosen to attempt the challenge.

“No time for sleeping, just motor on and keep walking, it’s a full continuous walk,” Neil added.

The Bolton News: Neil's wife Gill passed away from MND after living with the condition for over two yearsNeil's wife Gill passed away from MND after living with the condition for over two years (Image: Neil Bowden)

‘No-one knows why it happened’

More than £1,000 has already been raised through Neil’s JustGiving page.

Neil added: “Before you find a cure you’ve got to find a treatment, and you’ve got to find why it happened. Without finding out, no-one knows why it happened.”

Having cared for Gill throughout her illness, Neil chose not to return to his old career as a home salesperson following her passing, instead choosing a new path to become a pathology secretary at Warrington Hospital.

He said: “I left that business and decided to ask: what am I good at, what can I do?

“Looking after patients is something that I seemed to be able to do, and just being able to communicate, empathise with people – that sort of thing, to try and relax people before they have any procedures or anything like that.

“It completely changed everything I’ve done, it literally changed my life.”

If you have a story, I cover the whole borough of Bolton. Please get in touch at jack.fifield@newsquest.co.uk.