Chris Stennett

Chris's Ironman Austria 2023 page

Fundraising for Muscular Dystrophy UK
raised of £2,500 target
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Muscular Dystrophy UK

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RCN 205395 (England and Wales) - SC039445 (Scotland)
We fund research into muscle-wasting to improve the lives of everyone affected.


"What's wrong with your shoulders?", "Are you scared of the bench press?", "You need to pull your shoulders back.", "You need to pull your stomach in.", "You're all shoulders and arms aren't you?", "You've got bad posture."

These are things I have heard repeatedly all my adult life, for good reason: I have Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy. Never heard of it? Nor had I. With only an estimated 2500 people in the UK with the condition, you are more likely to win the lottery than have it. This is my story with FSHD, and how I have come to the path of the Ironman.

I realised about 8 years ago that my chest muscles had vanished, as well as any kind of scapular stability in my back, and that I was getting a lot of impingement in my shoulders. 

I went to physio before but the typical bad posture exercises made my issues worse so I went without and managed it myself with less pain and improved strength over time, but still without having "proper posture" or chest strength/size. 

Having played rugby for 13 years, and with the accompanying tremors in my shoulders and arms, I always assumed that my shoulders or neck had taken a hit somewhere and damaged nerves to certain muscles, or that I had simply trained myself into a less-than-ideal state. 

I never would have guessed I had a muscle-wasting condition!

After my 3rd dislocation in the shoulder area (collarbone, do not recommend!) in 2018, I went to a friendly physio to get a "No BS" assessment and he referred me to the neurologist in January 2019, where I found out I have a muscle-wasting disease. Great! This was confirmed by genetic testing in April 2019. 

After dealing with the initial shock, I've come to realise how freeing this is for me. I had built up a lot of insecurity over my structure, and it would have only gotten worse if the problem wasn't identified. There is no cure, which puts it in perspective that I only have a finite amount of athletic physical ability left in me. This is true for all of us, of course, but FSHD could claim mine at any time. 

I always thought that doing an Ironman would be a great challenge after my rugby days were over. They are now, and I don't see why the plan should change. I confess I thought I may be able to fix my shoulders by then too, but they have held up throughout training.

And I'm on my 4th lot of training, so I think they're good:

2020, my race was delayed for Covid.

I tried to complete Ironman Austria in 2021, but I didn't finish.

In 2022, I had a bike accident during training, in which I broke my arm in two places and I lost a lot of fitness when recovering.

It's 2023, and I am now completing the London Marathon and Ironman 70.3 Malaga in the months leading to Ironman Austria.

It's been a long road, and life has changed a lot since my initial diagnosis. This condition has pushed me to do things I would have procrastinated on otherwise, and I am in a much better place mentally compared to the time of my diagnosis.

Yes, this condition still scares the @!#% out of me, and I do sometimes worry about the future.

But, I'm good here in the present.

And I'm here for every up and down that this journey takes me on.

I remain empowered by FSHD, despite the way it continues to sap my strength in the gym.

Disability does not disqualify, and I'm here to get involved. 

Thank you for reading my story, and for all your support, greatly appreciated. There will be updates on this page, but please check out my Instagram page, FSHD.Ironman, for more regular updates. 

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About the charity

Muscular Dystrophy UK

Verified by JustGiving

RCN 205395 (England and Wales) - SC039445 (Scotland)
Muscular Dystrophy UK is the charity bringing individuals, families and professionals together to beat muscle-wasting conditions.

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