By Bart Biesemans
ROTSELAAR, Belgium (Reuters) - A 103-year-old Belgian doctor is walking a marathon around his garden in daily stages to raise money for research into the new coronavirus, inspired by a centenarian who became a hero in Britain for clocking up the charity miles with a walking frame.
Alfons Leempoels, a retired general practitioner, started his 42.2 km (26.2 miles) journey in the municipality of Rotselaar, north-east of Brussels, on June 1 and plans to complete it on June 30.
Every day he walks 10 laps of 145 metres (159 yards); three in the morning, three at noon and four in the evening. To avoid losing count, he throws a stick into a bowl every time he completes a lap.
Leempoels said the idea came to him when he saw World War Two veteran Tom Moore, 100, strike a chord in Britain by raising the equivalent of more than $40 million for the country's health service by walking around his garden.
"My children said that I can walk at least as well as Tom Moore and on top of that I am 103 years old," he told Reuters.
"So they suggested that maybe I should do something. My granddaughter had just run a marathon and as a joke I said: I will run a marathon."
Leempoels hopes to raise funds for the hospital attached to the nearby university of Leuven, where researchers are working to find a cure for COVID-19.
So far he has raised just over 6,000 euros, according to Marlies Vanderbruggen of Leuven University, and has covered about one third of the distance of a marathon.
Leempoels recalls people falling sick during the 1957-58 Asian flu pandemic, but recovering much more quickly than those affected by the novel coronavirus in recent months.
"As a doctor you feel touched by this and that's why I was happy now that I might be able to contribute something to fight the coronavirus," he said.
(Writing by John Chalmers; Editing by Mike Collett-White)