A former soldier who once tried out for the SAS but was left barely able to walk after a head-on car crash will trek 100 miles for charity.
Retired John Euers, of the Scots Guard regiment, is clocking up the equivalent of the West Highland Way, a long-distance 98-mile route without stepping foot out of his home city.
Instead, the 67-year-old father-of-two, is doing a “virtual walk”, by using a treadmill specially drafted into the cafe bar area at the Gregson Centre on Moorgate.
An ordnance survey map of the actual route charts his progress on the wall next to him.
The doctor in political philosophy and women’s studies is raising money for an emergency £30,000 appeal to mend the roof of The Gregson Hall, part of the much-loved community and arts centre of which he is a member and staunch supporter.
The rest of the £1,000 he hopes to raise in total will go to help old soldiers through the Scots Guard’s Colonel’s Fund.
Dr Euers, of Lancaster, is half-way there on his challenge. He has a target of achieving five miles a day which is expected to take three weeks.
It’s slow going following the head-on car crash 12 years ago as he drove to Ilkley.
And the determined pace is still a far cry from the days when Dr John walked, climbed and was a touring cyclist. He also undertook the notorious 45-mile trek in the Brecon Beacons, loaded down with a backbreaking rucksack as he bid to join the Special Air Service (SAS) in 1969.
Dr Euers, who also ran the bar at The Dukes and is retired from his role as a head gardener at The Butterfly House in Williamson Park, said: “Because of the problems I have had walking, I said rather ironically this year I would do a sponsored walk. They gave me a look as if to say, ‘yeah, right’.
“But I’m doing it because the Main Hall needs a new roof. Because of my limited physical capacity, I thought this could be my contribution to the appeal. It’s better this than sitting through committee meetings making acerbic comments!”
Watching on was Billy Pye, chairman of the Gregson Community Association, which is running the roof appeal. Mr Pye said: “I don’t want to embarrass him but I find it completely inspiring. When he first mentioned doing it, I thought he was insane. It’s not the kind of thing I would do or him, particularly given his difficulties.”
Graeme Bond, the centre manager, added: “He was going to try and walk the West Highland Way for real but it was going to cost too much. When he mentioned this idea, I thought ‘that’s amazing’. I went straight along with it.”
Dr Euers – who needs help just to get off the treadmill – was seriously injured when his car was written off in the accident in 2000.
Although initially dismissed from hospital late that night with little more than a broken collar bone, three weeks later he woke up and fell “flat on his face”, and has never recovered his mobility since, nor ascertained the precise nature of his injuries.
Despite being under expert neurologists and having MRI scans, he modestly says the condition has left him with “general lack of balance”.
But he also has suspected thyroid problems and occasional gaps in his thought and speech, which he believes are linked to the collision impact.
It means walking the mile-and-half that separate his home on the Ridge Estate from the Gregson Centre is an achievement “only done occasionally”.
But he says: “Although I’ve applied for work, I now consider myself to be an employer’s liability.”
During his 10 years in the Scots Guards, he saw action in the Malaysia-Indonesia confrontation.
It took place between 1962 and 1966 when Communist rebels for Indonesia fought the creation of Malaysia on Borneo, a British colony, with British troops allied to the Malaysians.
*To give to the appeal, you can hand over money direct at The Gregson Centre, sponsor him or give online at www.sponsor-me.org/jeuers/westhway.