The stamina needed to cycle more than 2300km of New Zealand’s cycle trails is a walk in the park for a former Central Otago champion shearer.
Jim Keenan (80) said having completed 1112km of trails in the North Island and being about a quarter of the way through more than 1230km in the South Island, he felt he was getting fitter every day.
The Picton man, who left Central Otago 20 years ago because he “bought a boat and wanted to fish”, said his homecoming and his cycling mission, called “Jim Keenan’s 22 Great Rides”, had a purpose
Three have fragile X syndrome, an inherited genetic condition that causes learning and intellectual disability.
They are now aged from 23 to 26 and the syndrome affects them due to a gene passed on via the X chromosome meaning women had a 50% chance of passing it on to their children while males would pass the faulty gene on to daughters.
Known as the leading cause of autism, about 5% of people turn out to have fragile X and 30% of children with the syndrome meet the diagnostic criteria for autism.
Other characteristics include high anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, speech and communication problems and sensory sensitivities.
He believed the syndrome was not taken seriously by health authorities despite about 22,000 New Zealanders believed to be affected by the condition.
“It’s been a hell of a job to get funding. It’s [fragile X] not recognised by the health system.”
Mr Keenan, supported by his Tauranga-based nephew, Pete Forman, in their signmarked van, started the journey on September 17 covering all the trails in the Tauranga area up to Auckland which was still in Alert Level 4 lockdown.
“We got as far as the Auckland police cordon with the purpose of finding out how far we could go,” he said.
That was no dice, and the focus became covering as much of the North Island trails as they could.
Now back in familiar territory, Mr Keenan had the Lake Dunstan cycling and walking trail in his sights as the next trail to tick off his list.
The 1986 New Zealand Merino Shears champion worked throughout Central Otago’s stations, most notably Earnscleugh Station, he said.
“I’m really looking forward to it.”
From Central Otago he would complete trails in the Queenstown Lakes district before heading north to tackle the longest of the trails on his list, the Alps 2 Ocean from Mt Cook or Tekapo to Oamaru in North Otago, with the goal of completing the mission by early next month.
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Mr Keenan plans to donate 75% of profits to Fragile X New Zealand and 25% to Rare Disorders NZ.