A PENSIONER who took up exercise to ease his grief following a family tragedy has completed a gruelling charity challenge.

Great-grandfather-of-two William ‘Jimmy’ Barrett is on track to raise £800 for NE-AS after successfully undertaking a triathlon at Woodhouse Close Leisure Centre in Bishop Auckland this week.

The 73-year-old, from Crook, has undergone two knee replacement operations in recent years but still managed a one-mile swim, 20km on an exercise bike and a one-hour cross training session in just over three hours.

Fundraiser Jimmy Barrett (aged 73)

Mr Barrett joined the gym earlier this year in a bid to ease his despair triggered by the tragic death of his 21-year-old grandson, Sam Barrett, in March 2014.

At the height of Mr Barrett’s depression he was unable to leave the house and spent his days and nights in front of the television.

The retired concrete plant supervisor said exercise had helped him to regain control of his life, and training for the triathlon had given him something positive to focus on.

“I’ve really enjoyed the training,” he said. “It’s given me a new lease of life. When I first started I wasn’t very fit and I’ve had to work really hard. The people at the gym have been so supportive, especially Richard Crawford and Karen Hawkey.

“I’m elated to have finished. It’s such a great achievement for me.”

Mr Crawford, a fitness instructor at Woodhouse Close Leisure Centre, said: “What Jimmy is doing is fantastic. He’s a good role model for the younger people who come here. He’s not just training for his own health and fitness, he is helping improve the lives of others.”

Alongside his training, Mr Barrett has been raising funds for the NEAS, a cause close to his family’s hearts.

He would like to thank everyone who has sponsored him so far, especially Quigley Builders and Wharton Landscapes which are based in his hometown of Esh Winning and donated £100 each.

Events fundraiser Sophie Clarke said: "On behalf of everyone at NEAS I would like to say a big thank you to Jimmy for his fantastic fundraising efforts and to congratulate him for such an amazing achievement. We are currently fundraising to develop our free family support services, which include toddler groups and family workshops. Without the support of people like Jimmy these services would not be able to continue."