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Jimmy Ashby: Riding around the world for MND

Jimmy Ashby, a 20 year-old and from Adelaide, South Australia, rode his bicycle across most of Europe, Asia, the US, New Zealand and Australia, raising almost $33,000 for MND Australia.

Now, Jimmy is home, and encouraging everyone to play a role in creating a world without MND.

We spoke with Jimmy about the ups and downs of life on the fundraising trail, and how his beloved grandmother and running coach, who both died from MND, inspired his amazing journey.

 

What were your favorite countries?

I loved Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. I was up in the mountains, above 4,500 metres, and it was incredibly barren. The culture was super friendly, the people were really hospitable, and they were curious to see who I was, and what I was doing.

The culture was just so different from anything I’d seen before. Many people lived a nomadic life in the mountains. They moved with the seasons, in the valleys and mountains, going where they pleased, with horses and sheep, their whole lives. They used what’s called a yurt, a big, white tent, to stay in. It was very cool.

I also really loved Nepal. I rode through the back roads of the mountains, off the tourist track, with the huge skyline of the Himalayas in the background. It was a very beautiful country.

 

What was hardest about the trip?

Dealing with all the cultures was a bit tricky, the language barriers. Finding places to sleep was hard. The survival aspect was hard too, finding food and water. Google maps doesn’t tell you exactly where the supermarket is.

You just kind of work it out, though. I got good with sign language, the symbol for eating or sleeping. I definitely had a sense of humour, and got on with it, then most things worked out.

I was always connected in terms of sim cards and getting internet. I never went too far without contact with family and friends back home, being able to chat and bounce ideas and stay connected to people I loved the most.

 

Why did want to raise money for MND?

I miss having my Gran around, having a grandma figure in my life. She was beautifully and softly spoken, a lovely person. When she was in her old folks’ home, I’d go over, and she had a veggie patch, so we’d pick vegetables together.

We lost her to MND, and it had a big impact. We don’t have much family in Australia. Most of my family is in England. It’s just my mum, dad, sister and I.

I always loved running, and my first running coach, Toby Schrier, built the Flinders Athletics Club, built its community. He was very supportive, always coming out to races to see me run. I was pretty sad when he got MND, too.

It made me realise that’s what MND is, what took over my grandmother’s life. It opened my eyes to how incredibly awful and wicked the disease was, in terms of how it takes over the person’s life, takes over everyone who loves and surrounds that person.

I decided to ride around the world first. But then, after thinking about it, I realized, why don’t I try and make an impact, do some good in the world, and raise some money for something close to my heart. MND was the cause to go for.

 

What do you think a world without MND looks like?

A much happier world. That’s pretty simple. MND doesn’t bring anything good to people or families across Australia or the world. And in terms of finding cures for MND, and better ways to treat it, nothing but joy, happiness and relief will come with that, in the future.

 

How did you feel when you arrived home in Australia, having raised all that money?

Pretty magic. I guess for me, riding along on my bicycle, it was always just a number on a screen. It was not until I got back to South Australia and I saw Dr Mary-Louise Rogers and the research team at Flinders University, and they told me how much this money can do, and that overwhelmed me with pride. That I’d made a difference with more than my ride. That doing what I love has, potentially, brought something to MND Australia and programs like those run by Mary-Louise.

 

If there is one thing others can to do for MND in Australia, what would it be?

The impact that can happen from one person riding a bike for MND is special. But if we all donate something small, we all play a little part, then something big can come from it.

 

Jimmy now lives with his mum, dad and sister in Adelaide, South Australia. The money raised from Jimmy’s ride is being invested into research and improving the lives of people living with MND.

 

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