Mark Jones, a 44-year-old gardener born and raised in Croydon, has claimed an official Guinness World Record (‘GWR’) for successfully completing 22 Olympic distance triathlons in seven days.
Mark, who now lives in Berkshire, completed his challenge in Windsor between 18-24 July 2022 when he worked through a gruelling regime involving very little sleep to complete 33km of swimming, 880km of cycling and 220km of running all within one week. The previous record was set at 20 triathlons by GWR but no-one had taken it on until Mark signed up, not only to take it on but to beat it by 10%! After full evidence scrutiny, Mark’s World Record was awarded by GWR in October.
Mark has competed in triathlon and other forms of endurance sport as an amateur over the past ten years around his full-time job as a gardener, when time and money has allowed. However, he was motivated to take on this unique and incredibly difficult challenge in 2022 as it is the 15th anniversary of his youngest brother, Steven’s, death.
Steven was brutally murdered in an unprovoked knife crime attack in Croydon in 2007 when he was only 23 years old. Mark and his family have never come to terms with Steven’s death and Mark, who was present at the attack and tried to save his brother, has suffered significant mental health problems at times as a result of the tragic event.
Sport, and triathlon in particular, has at times been the only thing keeping him going and so he chose to take on a this immense challenge in memory of his brother and as a nod of gratitude to the sport.
On the run up to the challenge, Mark’s wife, Jane, came across innovative, London-based anti-knife crime charity, Steel Warriors and set up a meeting to discuss a fundraising partnership. Steel Warriors (Charity Reg. No. 1175317) work with communities where knife crime is a real problem and threat.
They take seized and surrendered knives off the streets, melt them down and recycle the steel into free, outdoor calisthenics gyms in the areas where the knives were collected. They use these spaces as community hubs and training centres to support disadvantaged young people and show them that they can make their dreams a reality. Indeed, a number of youngsters have since gone on to become professional calisthenic athletes.
Mark and Steel Warriors came together to use Mark’s incredible challenge as a fundraising event for the charity. So far donations amount to nearly £2,500 and the enthusiasm for the partnership continues with further events being planned.
Ultimately, to install a street gym in Croydon in memory of Steven, Mark and Steel Warriors need to raise approximately £45,000.
Speaking about his World Record, Mark said: “I am just a normal man. I go to work to earn a living and I try to help others when I can. I wanted to do this challenge for my brother and to raise awareness of the huge loss and damage caused to families by knife crime.
“So many kids get into situations they don’t know how to get out of and they believe that carrying a knife shows they’re tough and think that it will protect them. So often it goes wrong and they and others get hurt and killed. It is no way to live. These street gyms allow them to toughen up physically and mentally in a safe and healthy space and give them a positive focus in life. It’s such a great initiative and I am proud to support Steel Warriors.”
Jane, Mark’s wife, who along with her daughter Connie crewed for Mark throughout his week-long challenge, said: “What Mark has achieved, not just in gaining his phenomenal World Record this year, but in life is truly remarkable and inspirational. He knows what it’s like to face adversity and almost insurmountable challenge over many years but he is a fighter, a battler and a very special man who always looks to turn problems into opportunities and to help and support others with their aims. I could not be more proud of him.”
Mark and Steven’s mum, Carol, has also found the World Record achievement in Steven’s honour an emotional moment. She explained: “Nothing will ever make up for us losing Steven so early in his life. His death tore our family apart and we still think about and miss him every day. What Mark has done in honour of Steven, the days and months and years of training to prepare himself to complete this challenge, is simply magnificent. I am so proud of him and I am thrilled to have a copy of his Guinness World Record up on my wall at home. It means so much.”
Ben Wintour, Founding Director of Steel Warriors, said: “Mark is an incredible ambassador for our charity. He’s never had anything handed to him on a plate, quite the opposite, and my goodness he knows what hard work is! Mark has shown that anything is possible, whatever background you come from, if you set your mind to it. I hope this inspires other people who perhaps aren’t content with their lives or who aren’t following a safe and heathy path, to set their hearts on a goal and achieve something positive and then go on to live better, stronger lives.”
If you have felt inspired by this story, please do consider donating to Steel Warriors on Mark’s Just-Giving page. If enough people donate just £1.00 Mark and Steel Warriors will be able to install ‘Steven’s Gym’ in Croydon and keep saving lives.