An IT director from Poole swapped his laptop and mobile for running shorts, swimming gear and bike attire, to complete the London Triathlon, raising much-needed funds for a charity founded by his recently deceased friend and former Royal Navy colleague.

Mark Collins, 50, was inspired to undertake the taxing challenge for the first time after his friend David Shutts, OBE, turned a terminal cancer diagnosis on its head, and founded ASTRiiD (Available Skills for Training, Refreshing, Improvement, Innovation and Development).

The Olympic route, comprising a 1500m swim, 40km cycle and 10km run was completed by Mark in an impressive 3 hours and 50 minutes – all in 31degree heat. Plus, thanks to donations from friends and family, he raised £700 for the charity.

Aimed at providing employment opportunities to those with long-term, often incurable health problems, ASTRiiD is an online matchmaking service that connects its highly skilled members, who have slipped off the employment radar, with businesses who need talented volunteers or staff.

“I met David around twenty years ago when we worked together on the HMS Westminster – he was larger than life and an inspirational Royal Navy Commander,” Mark, explained. He achieved so much in his career, both at sea and within the business arena, so for him to feel ‘on the employment scrapheap’ after his renal cancer diagnosis was devastating for him, and indeed for all that knew him.

“Founding ASTRiiD meant that David got to use his prognosis to better effect how the thousands of other people being dealt a life-changing diagnosis, get to carve out their future careers. David was only 50 when he was diagnosed, my age now, which made me realise that no one can predict what will happen in the future.

“I hope that the money I have raised will help ASTRiiD continue to grow and affect positive change in the workplace, and for those who have found themselves in similar situations to David.”

Steve Shutts, Chairman at ASTRiiD said: “We’re so grateful that Mark underwent such a difficult inclusive workp physical challenge in aid of ASTRiiD and in memory of David. David’s story continues to inspire people all over the nation to step up and help shine a light on the UK’s invisible talent pool.

“If David was here today I know he would have been delighted with Mark’s achievement in completing the triathlon, both for him personally and for the awareness he’s generated in turn for ASTRiiD – well done Mark!”

The ASTRiiD professional matchmaking platform has been developed by global powerhouse Salesforce and is the only one of its kind providing this service. Jobseekers describe their skills and how and when they can work; employers list the work they have available and ASTRiiD links them up.

For further information on ASTRiiD, to sign up as a business partner, become a member or register to fundraise, visit