Cowdenbeath captain to tackle three-peak challenge in aid of Huntington's Disease charity

When footballer Robbie McNab discovered he had inherited the gene that causes incurable and life-limiting Huntington’s Disease he resolved to get busy living not dying.

The Cowdenbeath skipper tested positive for the faulty gene six years ago when he was 22 and since then he has been making sure every moment of his life counts.

Last year he ran to the top of Ben Nevis in just 90 minutes, raising £5000 for Scottish Huntington’s Association and this Saturday he will attempt to complete The Three Peaks Challenge in 24 hours.

Although, Robbie is yet to show any symptoms of the cruel condition, he knows that one day he will.

Anyone with a parent who has Huntington’s has a 50 per cent risk of inheriting the condition from them.

The gene gradually damages the brain over time and people with the disease can eventually lose the ability to walk, talk, eat, drink and care for themselves.

But Robbie, who inherited the gene from his dad Allan, 55, is determined not to let Huntington’s define or dictate his life and is busy doing what he can to raise awareness of the condition.

The former Kelty Hearts and Linlithgow Rose player, who was born in Denny, said: “Huntington’s Disease (HD) takes its toll on whole families and relationships. I see what’s happening to my dad as his symptoms progress - he was always and ‘up and at it’ kind of person but it’s becoming more difficult now and to be honest he’s not too great right now.

“I tested positive in my early 20s and since then I haven’t taken my mind or my body for granted. I enjoy myself but have a much healthier lifestyle to stay as fit and as strong as possible.

“Life’s short and mine could be shorter in terms of quality. I also feel that exercise is a privilege and I want to make the most of it while I can.”

Robbie, who was crowned Cowdenbeath’s player of the year, decided to combine his passion for fitness with supporting Scottish Huntington’s Association (SHA) after a dip in form on the pitch during the 2022/2023 season.

The personal trainer, who runs OWNNIT gym in Falkirk with business partner Liam Healy, said: “I needed something to give me a lift; I wanted to challenge myself and do something positive at the same time.

“My mum Amanda has had support from the SHA charity over the years, including attending conferences and events, so I decided it was time to give something back and thought why not run up Ben Nevis?

“When I reached the top I stood there for ages taking it all in. It was a great moment as I realised just what a gift life is. None of us knows what is in front of us so we need to grab every moment with both hands.”

Robbie, who revealed his HD diagnosis last year in BBC documentary ‘A View from the Terrace,’ added: “This year I thought why not go bigger so me and a bunch of my friends are going to climb Ben Nevis in Scotland, Scafell Pike in England and Snowdonia in Wales in just 24 hours.

“Getting to the top of the Ben Nevis in just 90 minutes last year and raising money and awareness for the charity that has done so much for me and my family was was one of the proudest moments of my life.”

A simple blood test determines whether someone will get Huntington’s at some point between their 30s and 50s, with the life expectancy from the onset of the as-yet-incurable symptoms somewhere between 10 to 25 years.

Robbie, who lives in Falkirk with his fiancee Chantelle, 28, said: “I waited until I was 22 to get tested. I could have done it sooner, but they try and encourage you not to do so as it’s potentially a life-changing conversation you are going to have with the doctors.

“I wanted to know as soon as I could, to be honest. It’s important to know the cards you have been dealt. You have to go through consultations and three counselling sessions to make sure you are in the right place to find out.”

He added: “I went with my dad to get the results and didn’t really react when they gave me the bad news as it took me time to process it but once I did it was a real shock to the system.

“I will never forget coming home and telling my mum. She broke down and started screaming hysterically and I ended up comforting her. It’s the last thing in the world you would want for your son.

“For me, it wasn’t the end of the world. You have to put things in perspective. It was just something that’s happened. I decided to deal with it and move on.

“I try to keep as fit and healthy as I can so that by the time I’m 40 or 50, or whenever it is that these symptoms kick in my body will be in a good place. I am also optimistic that by then there will be medicine than there is now and potentially a cure.”

Robbie, whose late grandmother also had the condition and whose only sibling - a half-brother - cannot contract it, cites former Olympic rower Sarah Winckless MBE, Patron of Scottish Huntington’s Association, as one of his inspirations.

Sarah, 50 who was at university when she tested positive for the Huntington’s gene, went on to win two World Championships and an Olympic Bronze medal as part of the Team GB rowing squad.

Robbie, who has done a triathlon and gone paragliding and skydiving, said: “Sarah is a great example of someone who is being the best version of herself despite knowing what’s to come. I had dinner with her last year and was bowled over by her.

“She is only a few years younger than my dad but she is still fine which fills me full of hope. She has stayed positive, fit and strong and that’s how I’ve decided to be.”

Around 800 people in Scotland are living with the symptoms of HD and a further 3,200 are estimated to be at risk of developing Huntington’s as a result of inheriting the faulty gene.

Robbie, who is the picture of health, is optimistic about the future and more determined than ever to live life to the max. He hopes his outlook will encourage others to make the most of every moment.

The Blue Brazil defender, who has had a lot of support from his team mates since revealing his HD diagnosis, said: “Life is good. My fiancee and I are waiting to get keys for our new flat. We are also talking about having a family one day as there are ways of making sure the gene is not passed on. Chantelle has been my rock and I could not ask for anyone better and my mum Amanda is my biggest supporter both on and off the pitch. I’m very lucky.”

- for more info about HD go to

- to donate to Robbie’s Three Peak Challenge go to