WHEN doctors told Marcus Brook he would never walk again, he felt like his life had ended.
The father-of-two had enjoyed a 30km bike ride earlier that day and had returned to his home in Leith to make a cup of coffee when his right leg went numb.
Stumbling to the ground, Marcus soon realised his left leg had also lost feeling and called frantically for paramedics.
It eventually transpired that the 49-year-old had suffered an extremely rare spinal stroke, in which an artery burst and pumped blood into his spine.
The devastating stroke in September 2014 could have killed him, but now Marcus is taking on one of the UK’s toughest cycling races to raise money to help others.
Marcus said: “The really scary thing is if the bleed had not stopped, I would have eventually suffocated to death once the blood reached my neck and switched off my diaphragm.
“That night I was told that I would never walk again as I was paralysed from the waist down. ‘Devastated’ isn’t a strong enough word for how I felt.
“I could not imagine a life without being active, I just saw it all as pointless. What use was I going to be to anybody, just a burden to my family, and I just didn’t want to know.”
Marcus spent six months in a spinal unit in Glasgow where he had to learn how to use a wheelchair and how to look after himself. Inspired by others in the unit, he started training and slowly learned to do many of the things he loved, such as skiing and taking part in races.
Marcus, who runs his own software company, said: “Suddenly it started to come together. I could be of use. I could work. I could get fit and I could live much of the life I used to.”
On Sunday, Marcus will be the first person ever to navigate the gruelling Etape Caledonia race using a handbike.
The 81-mile race from Pitlochry around the Highlands is one of the highlights of the UK cycling calendar and will attract more than 5000 cyclists, including Olympic champion Chris Boardman.
Marcus will be racing with a group of friends to raise money for a charity he founded to help other wheelchair users get back on their feet again, raising money for Paragolfer wheelchairs that help people take part in activities such as golf and fishing.
He said: “I only tried a handbike last year and was hooked. For this year, the aim is to finish. But we will be the first ever to complete the course and we can show that wheelchair users, with modern equipment and the support of their friends, can achieve great things.”
The race is in aid of hospice charity Marie Curie, which supports people living with terminal illness.