“Ordinary but extraordinary”. As descriptions of Doddie Weir go, this one by his friend and former teammate Rob Wainwright seems most accurate.
“You could put Doddie in a room with 100 absolute strangers and within 30 minutes he would be friends with all of them.
He was a people person, he just loved talking to people and he was extremely generous with his time. That’s what he was like,” says Wainwright.
Extraordinary is also a fitting way to describe the fundraising efforts for the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation which Wainwright has been a key part of over the last few years.
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Most recently he led a group of riders 555 miles on a cycle from Cardiff to Edinburgh in 48 hours to deliver the match ball for Scotland’s Guinness Six Nations match against Wales.
It was the latest in a range of challenges undertaken to help raise funding and awareness for Motor Neurone Disease which Doddie was diagnosed with seven years ago before passing away in November 2022.
And although gruelling, Wainwright says every challenge they do has a sense of community and fun, to reflect the personality of the great man.
“The whole thing about Doddie and the ride is there’s a real community feel to it.
- If you’re interested in joining one of the challenges for the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation including a cycle to Rome, click here.
“I want to make the point this is all happening because of the very ordinary but extraordinary character of one man.”
A poignant trip
Over the course of touring rugby clubs and schools across Wales, England and Scotland, Wainwright was blown away with the impact his former Lions teammate had on people.
“There’s a huge love for him out there and obviously this year there’s a huge sadness, which has been a real driver for people to get involved and take part.
“Having lost Doddie at the end of November, everything was a lot more poignant than previous rides. Even now talking about it is a very emotional thing.
“On our ride going up through Wales, through Yorkshire, the welcome we were getting at the rugby clubs and schools we were stopping at was absolutely massive.
“These are all doors that were opened by the name Doddie Weir.”
Wainwright is more determined than ever to make a difference in the fight to find a cure for MND.
“In his six years with MND, there was no change. But in terms of the money that’s been raised through his efforts and all the people he’s inspired to fundraise there have been developments, big developments,” said Wainwright.
“There’s a lot of energy in the research community for MND, but the sad truth is there still isn’t a single treatment. We’re all there to keep the crusade going for Doddie.”
Next year Wainwright is considering taking the challenge to another level, with the aim of completing a relay cycle from Murrayfield to Rome in a week – an astonishing 1800 miles.
“Our plan is to make 2024 even bigger than 2023, which will be quite a challenge with 38,000 people taking part this year.
“I’ve got a figure of 50,000 that I’d like to get involved. In terms of the ride, we’ve done Twickenham there and back, Cardiff there and back. Rome which is on a different scale. So that’s what we’re looking at.”
No ordinary challenge for a extraordinary man.