On top of the world
By ANN-MARIE MAY
PEKING duck and a cold beer would be nothing more than a nice meal to most people, but for John Muggridge it will forever be a sign of great achievement.
"It meant I'd made it. It's a feeling I will never forget, and one that I thought I'd never get to feel again," John said.
"I proved that with some help and support I could still do so many things."
Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) two years ago, the sports-mad Coffs Harbour resident has faced, and won, many physical and emotional battles.
"Just over 12 months ago I couldn't walk from Baringa Hospital to the Bray Street shops," John said.
A positive spirit and the help of a treatment drug has since seen John's physical ability improve each day, allowing him to prepare for, and triumph over, his toughest challenge yet ? walking the Great Wall of China.
In an effort to raise funds for people living with multiple sclerosis, the MS Society launched a new program called the MS Challenge.
The challenge John signed up for was Walk the Great Wall, where participants walked a distance of more than 70km over eight days and raised just under $150,000 for the MS Society.
At the beginning of the walk, the group of 23, including six with MS, were told that along the way the meals would be basic and beer warm, but at the end they would be treated to a Chinese meal of their choice and a cold beer.
There were many times on the journey when John thought he would never get to taste his Peking duck.
"It was hard. But it was one of those times when you had to push yourself so you didn't let the rest of the team down," he said.
Apart from learning a lot about himself, John also soaked in the history he walked upon and on meeting the locals developed a new appreciation for his life.
"Along the way we visited a school and spent time with the children. They had so little but you would never have guessed looking at their big smiles."
Through self-imposed fines, for such things as swearing, the group had enough money to sponsor four students.
One of the hardest parts of the trip was Mt Huashan, where John and his group climbed more than 6000 steps in nine hours.
"My legs were shaking, but I knew that I couldn't stop. And the amazing feeling I had, the pride I felt, when we finished was worth any pain I felt later that night," he said.
And it was at this point when John knew he would soon be eating Peking duck and sipping on a cold beer.
The Coffs Harbour branch of the MS Society will meet on August 21 at the Coffs Ex-Services Club from 11am to noon