After suffering two strokes at the age of 43, Andy Forrest thought his life as he knew it would change forever.
He couldn’t have been more right.
But Andy, from Lancaster, would never have guessed that the biggest change to his life would see himcomplete one of the toughest endurance tests the UK has to offer just five years later.
The Iron Man challenge sees competitors tackle three gruelling disciplines; a 2.4mile swim, followed by a 112 mile bike ride, and finally a 26.2 mile marathon.
In appalling conditions of torrential rain and high winds in Bolton, Andy completed the challenge in 16½ hours as part of a field of 2,100 competitors.
It was an incredible achievement for Andy, now 48.
“My rehabilitation from the strokes concluded when I passed that finishing line,” he said.
“I was on such a high for about a week after the event.
“It was a tough day, but I never thought for a minute that I wouldn’t complete the challenge.”
Andy worked in a desk job for 23 years, and it was after leaving that he suffered two consecutive strokes whilst working as a learning technology support officer at the University of Cumbria.
The strokes left him paralysed down the left side of his body.
Andy began a long road to recovery by completing a 12-week Active Health programme at Salt Ayre Sports Centre, where he began to swim and use the gym.
His new focus on exercise helped his rehabilitation and he regained the feeling and use of his left sided limbs.
After being out of work for a year, he got a job as a casual lifeguard at Heysham and Hornby Community Swimming Pools,
Later, he returned to the University of Cumbria, this time as a student.
There, he completed a Bachelor’s degree in sports science .
As his confidence grew and fitness improved, Andy set himself rehab goals which included competing in a local sprint triathlon.
He has now competed in 12 and is an active member of the City of Lancaster Triathlon Club.
He also achieved his goal of completing a half Iron Man challenge last year.
His journey into sport may have not been the most conventional but it has proven to be most effective in his recovery.
Now employed as a gym instructor at Salt Ayre Sports Centre, Andy also works as part of the Active Health Team that first got him on the road to recovery.
Now he uses his own experience to help others in his day to day job and is looking to specialise in stroke rehabilitation in the future.
“If anyone can take anything from what I have achieved, it is that anything is possible,” said Andy.
“Here’s to the next challenge!”