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Guinness world record featured in the media – an article by Matthew Akpan

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Hi, my name is Matthew Akpan 33, from Cross gates, Leeds, England I wanted to speak to you about my Guinness world record that I ran in October 2021 as the fastest male marathon dressed as a wrestler (John Cena) I ran for the charity victim support and Bethany’s smile. I recently finished volunteering at the commonwealth games 2022 in Birmingham as a medal presenter at the national exhibition centre.

I grew up in Cross Gates, Leeds, to a Nigerian father who came over to England to study in 1980 and an English black mother whose parents were from Dominica, was educated in Leeds at St Theresa’s primary school and St John Fisher High School in Harrogate and studied Sport at college at Park Lane college (now Leeds city college).  In 2008 I attended Manchester Metropolitan University to study sports leisure and culture, but I failed a module which saw him resit the year. I then failed again and was forced to take a year out of study, and it was at this point I thought there was something holding me back.

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During this time at Crewe, I also lived on my own which I feel increased the onset of my Aspergers. I spoke with my family and discussed the idea that I might have Aspergers, with my mum helping me research the condition, which can cause impaired language and communication skills as well as repetitive or restrictive thinking and behaviour.

In March 2013, I was diagnosed with Aspergers and following a request for support I was able to continue studies at a different university and graduated from Leeds Beckett University in 2015 with a degree in Sport, Leisure and Culture. 

From there I began using my diagnosis to explore myself and get out of my comfort zone.

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Unfortunately, my father died in 2021 from Kidney failure, we watched wrestling for like 20 years and I thought that as a tribute to him and victim support, so I wanted to become a superhero, so I chose John Cena as he has done a lot for children. I thought he would be the best one to do, even though it was not easy it was easy in his style, I ended up with a lot of blisters, scars, and rash burns. It’s difficult for anyone to grieve, but for me I was able to use my condition to get on with life and I got more qualities out of him after he passed away. It was very hard, but because I am a catholic, I feel the Lord got me through.

I can speak three different languages; I link that to the Aspergers. I know my strengths and weaknesses, I know I have talents, I have been able to use my talents. It has projected me to have a Guinness World Record, that most people do not have, the qualities I do have, I have been able to use them and empower them. I see the world differently, because I do things differently, I had to educate people that I do it this way, this is how it is and why I do it. It was quite easy for me to understand having Aspergers, it was a really good way to understand who I was.

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I think the difficulty might have been for the people around me, especially the close ones, it was a bit of a shock to them. My mum adapted but they did not understand it straight away. 

Talking is a big thing, that’s the best way to move forward really,  found in my life, without my parent support I probably wouldn’t be as advanced as I am now. Look for any support that you can, if you feel like you are struggling maybe look for online help, find out a bit more about yourself.”

I also ran my second Guinness world record for the fastest half marathon world record I ran on 8th mMay 2022 in the same costume I teamed with former Hollyoaks actress Bethany Hare, where she raised over 600 pounds for her charity that affiliation I will continue.

It is a children’s charity aiming to set up a safe House where children with disabilities and other struggles can come she aims to raise 300,000, she has already raised over 150,000.

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I currently work 2 jobs and have had reports in the Yorkshire evening post, Leeds Live and a tweet from WWE superstar wrestler John Cena for my efforts and running for a cause. I have been sent a blue peter badge for my efforts this year and Yorkshire evening post have done an article on me. I am in talks at the moment with BBC Sport to become a journalist working for them.

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