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Darren Edwards (Disabled Adventurer)

On 6th August 2016, Darren Edward’s life changed forever. Whilst rock climbing in North Wales, he was involved in a severe fall that would leave him with a life-changing injury. With a rock section unexpectedly shifting below his feet, he was sent tumbling uncontrollably toward his climbing partner below. The damage he sustained would leave him instantly paralysed from the chest down with a severe spinal cord injury. Yet, as he was prepared for aerial extraction by the Mountain Rescue, he made an essential and life-changing commitment to himself. He wouldn’t be beaten.

He has pushed himself at each stage of his rehabilitation to come back stronger and prove what can be achieved by someone with a Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) and disability. Adventure has very much been at the heart of his recovery.

Since first dreaming of learning to kayak as a way in which he could continue to explore the great outdoors, he has gone on to train as part of Great Britain’s Paracanoe Team, to pioneer adaptive freediving in the UK, and in 2021, to become the first disabled person to kayak from Land’s End in Cornwall to John O’ Groats in Scotland – a distance of over 1,400 kilometres.

He has refused to let the word disability define who he is as a person and is committed to helping challenge the perception of what those with a disability can achieve.

On the podcast, we talk about how the last five years have impacted his life and some of the amazing things to come out of it. Don’t Forget to Subscribe and Review the Podcast if you have enjoyed it so far. A simple review goes a long way to help the podcast grow and your support means everything.

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Transcript of our Conversation

Darren Edwards Adventurer

[00:00:00] Darren Edwards Adventurer: Hello, and welcome to the modern adventure podcast where explorers and adventurers tell their stories coming up. When I had my accident, I had almost this kind of like bank of resilience that I can start tapping into and trust me, I needed to tap into it. I think had I not gone through those life experiences in the buildup to maxed and tested myself and pushed my limits and, you know, push myself out of my comfort zone and grown as an individual, that whole growth mindset kind of staff, if I’d then gone through what I’d gone through and had to overcome a new type of adversity and life’s biggest challenge.

And this is a challenge that, you know, climbing a mountain or going through, you know, selection with special forces reserve. You can quit at any point. You can turn back around the mountain, or you could just say, you know what voluntary withdrawing, I don’t want this enough kind of thing. Whereas with this challenge with a life-changing injury, there’s no get out clause.

There’s no give up because you just have to. [00:01:00] When you have to keep moving forward. My next guest is an adventurer and disabled speaker. Thanks for having me, John. It’s an absolute pleasure. I think you’ve got an incredible story sort of to tell on the podcast today. And one that I sort of feel well, I think probably.

It’s best just to sort of jump straight into it and just start right at the beginning about how this sort of love of adventure sort of came about and what are you doing? Because I know that you were, you were training to become like this sort of army reserve training for the SES having this huge plans and then something dramatic happened that sort of changed the course of your life.

Yeah. Yeah. I guess for me, I almost feel like there’s two kind of like clear chapters to my life. There’s kind of a crux where things really change and life changes quite dramatically, pretty damn quickly. And the sort of the person that I am is [00:02:00] still the same. I’m still someone said to me that a life changing injury kind of strips away your sense of identity and who you are as a person at the time.

I kind of. Worried that that was true. I was worried that I was about to lose who I was as a person. I was always adamant that I wouldn’t change at my heart. I would always be the same version of me, perhaps in a different way. So, you know, growing up, I felt like a little bit of a misfit. I was in a friendship group, which was interested in football and drinking and girls.

And while I liked football and girls, I was never much of a drinker and it wasn’t until I was 17 that I met someone who became my best friend, who, you know, came from an adventurous kind of lifestyle. And with someone that climbed in and wanted to be a Mountaineer and was kind of moving in that direction in his life.

And he really pulled me in that direction as well. He got, kinda gave me a taste of, of what it was like to, to live more adventurously and to not kind of live for the pub and the football pitch and for the girls. Whilst, you [00:03:00] know, the, the, the, the latter still remains an interest obviously, and, you know, all of a sudden.

We live up in Shrewsbury and the west Midlands we’re about an hour and a half from from Snowdonia. So my first kind of indoctrination into this world was going up crib Goch Snowden. And just having this real revelation of this is kind of the sort of person, this sort of lifestyle I want to lead. And the thing that I want to make me me as a person.

So for what would have been nine years, I kind of develop. My skillset and my interest and my love for climbing and mountaineering, you know, moving from just kind of hiking at the start through to traditional rock climbing, sport climbing, climbing in the Alps, you know had the absolute honor and privilege of climbing Mount Blanca in 2014 and going back to climb Mons, Rosa, which is the second highest in 2015.

And. Life was moving in one direction. And one, one clear, well, there were two clear goals in mind. The first of mine was to, to climb in the [00:04:00] Himalayas and it was, you know, probably apologize for the mispronunciation of this, but making plans to go to climb Cheerio in 2000 and what would have been 17. And like you alluded to, I was part of the army reserve and I was going through the selection and training person process for the, for the SES reserve.

And I was two years into that. I’d gone through the select physical selection process, which is known as Hills, which is just physical torture over the mountains of south Wales. And the Brecon beacons, just pushing yourself beyond what you think your limits are and pushing yourself so far out of your comfort zone.

You wouldn’t know how to find it. If someone turns around and said to go back to it, and that was it. And my purpose in life and my drive in life and my, my passion were to achieve these two goals. Kind of had the same elements to them. They were, they’re both extremely challenging and extremely rewarding.

And then life changed pretty dramatically in an unexpected way when I was a rock [00:05:00] climbing in north Wales. So probably about an hour from me in a place called in an old limestone quarry. So really sketchy would probably be the best word to describe it. It’s a real loose rock. And that the slight irony of, of where I had my accident is the crack itself is called world’s end.

Little did I know that that day potentially would kind of represent the end of my particular world at the moment. So it was the 6th of August, 2016. I was climbing with the person that introduced me to, to this world nine years earlier to Matt, with Matt. Sorry. And we’re kind of at the final pitch of what is 120 foot rock face, and I make the final.

Sen and I’m putting my gear in as I go. And I’m stood at the top of this 30 foot section and I’ve made it you know, as far as I’m concerned done Matt’s going to come up to me and we’re going to walk off and go home. The final sort of pitch [00:06:00] was, was a little bit tricky and, and Matt was struggling to get up here.

And we were conscious that he was going on a, on a date that night with a first date, with a girl from Tinder. And she kind of like ticked all these boxes. So he was super key and he was like, right, come on. We gotta go. We gotta go. So I think he was getting a little bit frustrated. He couldn’t couldn’t make it up to me.

So the quickest thing in our heads was for me to quickly rig up an app set and go back down to him and walk off this kind of like middle ledge together and back to the car, which is parked down the bottom. And it was kind of when we were doing that, I was going through the motions of setting up my, my anchor point and abseiling back down to him that.

As I looked down and it’s this sort of thing that you probably do hundreds of thousands of times before anybody listening, that’s, you know, a climber or a mountain there, you stand on the edge and you’re confident and comfortable standing there. But it was, as I was kind of peering over my shoulder and saying something back down to Matt, that was more than likely about the date that night.

And I’m pretty sure it was [00:07:00] I think the word catfish you might’ve been used, I was like, it’s gonna be a catfish. And it was the last thing that I’d say to Matt. And before I know it, the ledge though is on shifted below my feet and I froze, I completely froze. And within seconds, you know, probably a millisecond, my rope started to zip through my, through my BDA device, mobile device.

And I just, it was like being on a roller coaster ride at a theme park where you get that initial. And you kind of get that pit, this summit feeling, but it just kept going. And before I know it, you know, I’m falling straight back down, what could have been a hundred foot drop. But fortunately for me, you know, what probably lasted three or four seconds felt like an eternity.

And in that moment I knew I had such kind of like crystal awareness of everything that I stood to lose. And the kind of the nature of the first time in my life, I was completely out of control of what was about to happen to me. That was genuinely really scary [00:08:00] because I didn’t know what was, what was going to happen in the next couple of seconds.

I land flat on my back on the ledge that Matt has stood on, which has probably no more than six foot wide. And I start to tumble. So I’ve landed on my back. At that point. I’ve broken my back. I don’t know it at the time. I know that I’m in pain. I start to tumble, I tumble through like a thorn, but so I’ve got a scar that runs probably from.

My wrist all the way up to, up to my shoulder. So that was going to insult to injury at that point. And I don’t know it, but as I’m tumbling and I’m about to tumble off this next, next sort of 40 foot section, Matt has seen, seen me Lana’s sprinted over to me. He has rugby tackle me and he’s rugby tackled me on the edge of this next ledge.

So without a doubt at that point, and he’s, he saved my life and stopped me from falling any further. And yeah, it’s kind of those initial seconds of confusion and panic and kind of trying to come, come to terms and understanding of what’s just happened [00:09:00] and probably on that ledge for about an hour before the mountain rescue team turn up and the situation starts to be assessed.

And that’s kind of got me stable and it was in the timeline before mountain rescue turned up. I tried to stand up for the first time and it felt like the whole world hurts kind of like pivot. In the middle of my back, the top half of my body, the top half from my chest up had moved as if it was to stand up.

And it was in that moment that I had this real dawning realization that I couldn’t feel my legs and the brain simply didn’t know that three-quarters of my body existed. And I think in that moment, I realized that I was seriously injured. Until that point, the pain that I was feeling was from my arm, from wrecking my arm as I fell.

So my main concern was the fact that I’d broken my arm or that I seriously injured my arm. I didn’t really think about. The fact that I might have injured my spine, or I had a spinal injury [00:10:00] and we put that initial 30, 45 minute period down to shop and kind of it would wear off and I’d stand up and we think no more of it.

And yeah, probably two, two hours a elapsed by the time the, the coast guard helicopter is there. So obviously we can’t use a normal air ambulance just because of the exposure of the cliff. And that kind of starts a five months journey for me through intensive care being told the next day by surgeons and, and the guide operates on me when I arrived at the major trauma unit as to what I’d done as to get to the level of my injury and the severity of my injury and the very, no, no shit.

Talk in assessment of. My sort of prognosis was that the level of damage I’d broken my back at TSX, which is kind of where your breast bone meets in the middle. And I’d not just really broken my back. I, I, without being too graphic, I’d snap my back clean into, as I landed, I landed on a, [00:11:00] on a piece of metal hex, one of my, one of my climbing nuts.

So the, the force of the impact had been, you know, times by 10 at that point. And I, yeah, completely dislodged my spine. My spinal cord was severely injured and that’s kind of the, that’s the thing, you know, there’s this breaking your back and not affecting your spinal cord. Some people can, and I’ve met people in hospital that came in paralyzed from the neck down and over the course of six to 12 weeks, they rediscover the ability to walk because the swelling on their spinal cord reduces.

But for me, it was such a cold hearted prognosis of we’re sorry, but this, this is it, you know, we’ll know more, but this is, this is you for the time.

Wow. And the sort of rehabilitation of it. I mean, your partner that you were climbing with [00:12:00] cause did you fool, you fell next to him. I, I thought you might’ve fallen on him. Did you fall on him? So I fell probably I think a couple of feet, six foot to the left of him. And, and then he grabbed you just before you could fall off again.

So I kind of, I gave him the, and that’s something that I’ve always remembered is as I was falling, I had enough time to, to shout his name. I think four times, because I was, I was, I was physically letting him know what was happening. Cause he would have had no idea, you know, as far as he was concerned, I’d set up myself to, to come back down to and take my gear out as I, as I was going.

And that was it. So he was, had, he still been clipped into the rock at that point, which he was, he would have seen me land. And unless it unclipped quick enough for you where he’d never would have made it to me because w we’re [00:13:00] talking seconds between me landing and me going off that next ledge

and the, I suppose for people listening, it’s the, the mental strain of coming to terms with your situation. How, how was it in, in a sense. Of having all these goals and aspirations to suddenly being told by the doctor no more. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It was really, it was really tough. I’ll be being honest. I think that first week in intensive care was, was such a blur.

You know, it was kind of like hooks up to a machine where if I was in pain, I could hit this red button and I’d get a hit of morphine. So that first week, and coming off the back of what was I think like a [00:14:00] nine hour surgery was, was, was really taxing on me physically and emotionally. And I really struggled in intensive care being in an environment where you feel so claustrophobic, surrounded by beeping machines, surrounded by people that were going through horrific injury, people, screaming, and all of a sudden, you know, there were no windows.

It was, it was only air-con. I, my body was overheating from, from trying to recover from surgery. And it wasn’t until I think that day four where the, the staff and I think my, my mum in particular noticed that I was really beginning to struggle emotionally, that they wheeled me out of intensive care into like the ambulance bay that was just slept down the corridor just to get fresh air and sunlight and just to breathe for the first time since Bakst and just to kind of like get a few deep breaths in, and kind of reaffirm to myself that I can handle this.

And that was one of the key promises I made myself on the day maxed. And when, when we waited for the [00:15:00] coast guard helicopter to turn up, which was Mike. Rescue was that I promise whatever this was. Cause I didn’t know at that point, whatever this is, I won’t let it beat me. And I really almost gave up on that by day four of intensive care because I was finding it so hard and then wheeled out into that ambulance bay was that kind of moment where I could reaffirm to myself that commitment and just say, you know what?

You do have this. I just needed that, that kind of moment of fresh air sunlight on my skin, just to really take stock and say to myself, you do have this, you know, you weren’t naive to promise it, but it was really tough to be told that I’d have to give up on two. Key dreams. And in a way of living that I built over a nine year kind of love affair with, with being outdoors and adventurous was tough.

But at the same time, I just knew that I’d find a new way of living that life. It wasn’t that I was going to change as a person. It’s just that [00:16:00] the mode of transport might change was the only thing that I thought in my head. We, I have a friend who had similar, not similar a friend of was sort of blown up.

And I suppose at the start, when you come to terms with the situation, you sort of set yourself goals and you sort of use that as your focus and your drive each day, did you sort of have that. Was the idea of like, when you’re in hospital, you’re like, right, I’m going to attempt to try and do this or attempt to do that.

And then that’s your focus. And then your goal and each day is to try and progress progress to this level, whether it’s say minor, you know, like a sort of being able to feel your toe or, you know, being able to take one step, those sort of goals are in your sort of head to sort of push you [00:17:00] forward. Was that a similar thing that happened to you when you were in hospital?

For sure. So they, they said that the first six weeks could could, you know, things could come back and, and you might rediscover some failings. So I was kind of really hypersensitive to if I, if I woke up, could I feel and think, could I try and wiggle my toes? And then I kind of thought we know what let’s focus on, what I can control.

So I’m pretty sure I was the, one of the first people to ask for some weights I was on. So you kind of go into bedrest. So you’re on like a six week bare dress program. And when I say bedrest, I mean, you are in, in bed flat on your back and you giving yourself a six week kind of period to, to heal. And I found that so frustrating because whilst there was like TV there, there was all that going to like, you know, gadgets to keep you occupied physically.

It was so hard just to sit what a lay still. So I kind of one day acid to the physio was like, do you reckon [00:18:00] I can get some weights? And she was like, Darren, you probably misinterpreted the idea of bedrest here, but the idea of bedrest is that you rest. And I was like, yeah, but I’m really, I need to do something.

I’m like, I’m wasting the way. And I was wasting away. I was, you know, I was in the physical shape of my life and. I was watching my body kind of like evaporate rapidly. And so she kind of said, well, I’ll see what I can do. And she came back in one day with a pink, one, kilo dumbbell, or two of them to be precise and was like, this is the best we can do.

And our kind of like very gratefully took them. I was like, okay, perfect. So when she left, I started trying to do like chest press and like, you know, some curls, whatever I could do from, from my like laying down position. And the next day I was like, Amy, I’m so sorry, but is there anything heavier, anything heavier than one kilo?

And she kind of said that she was bending the rules, but she gave me a two kilo dumbbell and the same thing [00:19:00] you could so light, you could Chuck this thing across the room with that much trying. So one of my friends works at a gym in a town near me, and I said to him, I was like, mate, I’m, I’m dying here.

Come on. I need some. So he kind of goes away and gets me a four kilo dumbbell from his gym. And to this day, the there’s a, still a four kilos. This is five years later, there’s still a four kilo dumbbell that’s left to kind of like spare there’s one message and I’ve got it. And yeah, so I kind of started to try and do what I could physically to rehabilitate myself.

There was a device that I wish I had a habit. There was a device when I first got hostile, which was you. It was to measure lung function. So as I’ve landed, I’ve broken three ribs on my back and I’d punctured my lung. So my breathing was really labored and my breathing was pretty weak. So there’s a little chamber thing.

It’s three balls and different chambers and you have to inhale and healthy person without trying me, or you now [00:20:00] could inhale and all three would lift. And that would be kind of like piece of piece of cake, really. I was so weak, you know, from a cardiovascular points for you. When I got in that, I could just about wobble his first ball.

And I was trying with all my kind of like, you know, strength to, to do it. And I couldn’t. So every day I was like, yeah, a bit like of women drug addicts. I was like either doing these weights, or I’ll say this very carefully, sucking this pipe to try and lift these balls. And day by day, that first ball got higher up the chamber until it reached up, you know, a couple of days later I’d be wobbling the second ball, first ball, a bit tight wobbling, the second ball.

And it was these little wins and these little kind of like goals, like you say, that kept me in a positive state of mind because I was seeing progress even though I was still laying in bed and I was counting down the days of, you know, however many days left until I could get up for the first day. It was a [00:21:00] long, a long six weeks of lying flat and.

Trying to, to find those little goals, just to keep my mindset ticking along. I think that’s probably really important because it’s very, I think you can almost go one or two ways. You could always give up and say, you know, my lifesaver, or you could set yourself goals and try and go out and pursue them.

And I imagine for people who have the sort of life-changing injuries, you go with one or two ways, but I always was told that it’s like after three months, once it’s all the goals have sort of been set and done and you sort of have to move back into normal society or normal life, that’s where it become.

Yeah. So there’s an expression that they say in hospital. So you’re on the spinal ward for five months, you know, all in all. [00:22:00] They say that you’re going from the zoo to the jungle. So the hospital is dizzy because your fed watered, you looked after you medicated. If anything goes wrong, don’t worry. You know, you, you kinda, you you’re taken care of, then you’re discharged into the jungle because you’re, you’re having to fend for yourself to a large extent.

You have to fend for yourself. You’re going back into a world. You’re looking at it from a different perspective. You’ve never seen the world like you do before. You know, you used to walk around six foot, see amounts and run up here, see a cliff climate, and you go out at four foot, three sat down and all of a sudden going off a curb, which is six inches and going up a curve, which is six inches become like your, your, your new little Minneapolis that you kind of day-by-day, you’re like, right.

Well, if I’m going to fall and, and trust me, I have fallen out and embarrass myself in public so many times by like, you know, just trying to do something a bit stupid, but all very mundane [00:23:00] and I’m falling out my chair. And, and yeah, so that was scary. And, and I’ve gone through my long-term relationship and broke up in hospital.

And all of these little things were like challenging my resilience and challenging my ability to stay resilient. And it was, I think, you know, having. The saving grace for me at that point was the fact that I’d in the nine years in the buildup to my injury, I’d gone through tests and challenges and I’d failed and overcome failure and learn from failure.

That when I had my accident, I had almost this kind of like bank of resilience that I could start tapping into and trust me, I needed to tap into it. I think had I not gone through those life experiences in the buildup to maxed and tested myself and push my limits and push myself out of my comfort zone and grown as an individual, that whole growth mindset kind of staff, if I’d then gone through what I’d gone through and had to overcome a new type of [00:24:00] adversity and life’s biggest challenge.

And this is a challenge that, you know, Climate and mounts, and aren’t going through, you know, selection with special forces reserve. You can quit at any point. You can turn that around the mountain, or you could just say, you know what, I’m voluntarily withdrawing. I don’t want this enough kind of thing.

Whereas with this challenge with a life-changing injury, there’s no get out clause. There’s no give up because you just have to attack it and you have to keep moving forward. So leaving hostile is, was scary. It was scary, really scary because I didn’t quite know what my life was going to look like, but there was one really important thing that I did in hospital that I think got a lot of viral eye-rolls at the time.

Whereas I had like a day off, like a bit like a prisoner, how that day released for for one day. And me, Matt and another of our friends, Harry went up to Manchester, which is about an hour. And we went to a kayak shop and in my head I was like, kayaking is the way that I’m going to live the same lifestyle.

[00:25:00] And a way for me to not feel like I’m disabled and not feel like I’ve got a life-changing injury. So we went up, spent I think 800 quid on a kayak and 200 equip more, all the bits to go with it, you know, saved a bit of money, been a nostril obviously, and came back the next day, triumphant what came back the same day.

And I saw my physio the next day. And I just asked her the simple question. It was like, do you think I could kayak? And she was like, what? In your opinion can somewhat of my injury level, you know, someone who’s chest down paralyzed, could they kayak? And she was like, Darren, I love your enthusiasm. But if I’m honest, I think you kind of need to limit your kind of wheelchair basketball, wheelchair 10 S something with a bit more support.

And in my head, anything that had the word wheelchair in it, I wasn’t interested in because I don’t want to you know, my wheelchair is my mode of transport and that’s it. I don’t want. For a long being in the sports that take my interest now [00:26:00] is sports where you leave your chair at the side and you get in a new row or you kayak or you swim or whatever, that sense of freedom.

So she was like, why you asking? And I just got my phone out and showed her the picture of me sat next to my kayak. And she went, when was this? And I was like, that was yesterday and that’s mine. I just bought it. And she was like, Darren, you know, that, that typical, like disapproving kind of the physio that wants to take care of you, make sure you didn’t kill yourself.

But that was the single most important thing that I did in my injury. Post-injury because it was that statement to myself. And that once again, reaffirming that commitment I made on the cliff that day that I wouldn’t be beaten. So on the 23rd of December, I’m discharged on the 24th of December. I’m in the local swimming pool for two hours and we’ve got our kayaks in the water.

And I probably capsized, I don’t know, a hundred times in the space of two hours because it turns out it’s pretty difficult when you can have my injury level, but [00:27:00] I wasn’t deterred with every capsize with every failure. If you want to call it failure, I was more Stubbornly determined to overcome the challenge.

Did did you have to sort of what’s the word adapt the kayak because being sort of chess down in terms of your glutes and your waist being sort of supportive, did you have to sort of adjust it? So it’s more attached to round your waist in a sense. Got it. So we had to do it, so it was a bit more padded, so it was a bit more connection to the boat.

Had it like a backrest, but the same as the one that my friends had, it was there any difference to them? And that was the appeal. I think in my mind is once we were on the water, apart from the fact, you could tell that one person looks a lot more tense than the rest. And that person was me. Cause I was trying not to fall in.

And then like you use a lot of your neck muscles. So for me, With it being [00:28:00] chest up. There’s a lot of emphasis on neck muscles, on shoulder muscles to do the stability for you. So in a lot of the pictures from that day, you could just see the kind of like tension on my face. And but yeah, no, we didn’t, we didn’t really do anything to it.

So once we were off and we paddle in, you know, in the days that followed in the weeks that followed it, moved from a swimming pool to the local canal and we leave my chair at the side, but jump in and we’d go down for a couple of miles and come back and then, you know, a couple more weeks or months go pass.

And we’re up on one of the lakes in, in, in Wales, near us since not only here. And it was a real, like sweet moment where I was looking back at kind of, you know, the journey I’d been on and, and thinking, well, I don’t really know what’s changed here. I’ve, I’ve lost something that I’ve gained something and I’m not focusing on it.

You could drive yourself crazy. You could completely talk to yourself. I could have talked to myself thinking about everything that I did. But [00:29:00] I just, my brain is not wired that way. And I know that it’s not wired that way because that’s self protection. That’s, that’s me looking after my mindset and that’s me looking after my, my kind of positivity.

So it was much better, much more productive and much more exciting to think about where this journey could go. And for me, that’s something that I, I tried a few things I’d never done before I learned to I started rowing. I tried free diving, which is obviously, you know, scuba diving without the oxygen tank.

Just take a breath and pull down on a rope. And, you know, before you know it, you’re 30 foot under and you’re swimming through a, a wreckage of a plane at night. And even though some of those moments in that moment as. But before I started to panic, I didn’t have enough oxygen to get back to the surface.

It was one of those, well, I never would have done this moment. It’s my life was on a two completely different trajectories, but what’s to say that you can’t achieve the same thing on the second [00:30:00] trajectory what’s to say you can’t achieve the same sense of fulfillment, happiness challenge, excitement. And I was, and it’s been it’s been the greatest adventure of my life has been life.

My life has become one big adventure. It’s really well put. And with this sort of kayaking doing that sort of probably week weekends or something, was this where you got the idea to sort of kayak from John grates to lands end? No, no, no. It’s also the, the idea, the idea. So I, six months after coming out of hospital, so a year after my injury, I went for selection for Britain’s Paralympic hiking.

I kind of just thought, you know what, I’ve seen the leaflet I’m going to go for it. Probably. I’m probably not what they’re looking for. And God knows they didn’t see cocking ability in me because I was the kayaks they use are a lot tidier. So I was upside down once again, this is back to the swimming pool day, one type thing.

[00:31:00] This is in the lake and Nottingham at the national water sports center. And I’m upside down more times than I’m the right way up. And this poor coach is like dragging me out of the water. But with every capsize, I was like, you know, put me back in. And he was like, where you’ve fallen in about four times now.

And I put me back in. So I think what they saw was like this stubborn, determination and resilience, and this kind of, you know, willingness to overcome adversity. So they invited me back for a few more trials. And before I know it, life has become, you know, I’m an athlete and I’m driving over from Shrewsbury to Nottingham three days a week to the national war sports center.

And I’m part of their talent development pathway. So they’re looking at the net. Almost generation of athletes to challenge for Paralympic selection for Tokyo and for Paris and for the ones that follow that. And that’s what life became. Life became moving towards my new purpose, my new goal, which was kayaking with the ambition of qualifying for Tokyo and the kind of heroes didn’t come about [00:32:00] until I failed.

No, I, I, I trained for three years for something and before I can really do anything about it, I’ve, I’m struggling with a shoulder injury COVID comes in, you know, double impact there throws everything and all the uncertainty of what’s going to happen with the Olympics and the Paralympics. And three years of hard work looks like it might have no end result.

And it was in that kind of flux or that, that, that state of flux, where it was going back to controlling like control and all of a sudden, I can’t control what’s going to happen. The Paralympics or whether or not I’ll get a chance to, to qualify. And to be honest, whether or not my injury was holding me up enough that I could even be competitive.

So in that I think this would have been June, 2020. I called up a couple of nights that I’d I’d, I’d met through the armed forces, Paris, no sports team. We we’d we’d met Nordic skiing in, in Norway. December, 2019. [00:33:00] So I called them up, you know, three or four months later in, in the new year. And I said, do you guys fancy doing something epic defense?

You’re doing something really, really big. And the people I called I knew were like-minded. And I knew that just saying that would kind of wet the appetite. And when we were in Norway, we sat around a table one night and we were having dinner and we were chatting about big life goals. So Johnny, one of the lights on the table said that he wanted to go to Antarctica.

Luke was going to be running the world marathon challenge that he was going to be running seven marathons, seven days in constants. And we all went round and it got to me. And I remember saying that for me, kayaking has been the single greatest discovery of my life post-injury and the single greatest thing that I’ve really done and.

I’d love to do something bigger, big, yeah, big expedition, big adventure. I’d love to. And I sort of threw out there as a throwaway comment. I was like, I’d love to fly from London to Gianna groves. There wasn’t any [00:34:00] real rationale or logical thinking to why I said it. So when I called the guys up in, in 2020 in, in, you know, like I say about Jean and I was like, you fancy making it happen, shall we, should we do this?

Should we, it’s never been done by, it’d been done by two able-bodied paddlers experienced sea kayakers. And here is a guy who’s, you know, got a serious spinal high-level spinal injury who has never, I’d never kayaked on the sea. I kayaked on rivers and lakes and you know, that was doing the Paralympic stuff.

But that sprint kayaking, it’s not, it’s not kind of being off the coast and being off shore. And the four guys I was calling up, I knew full well weren’t seeker hikers. I knew that Luke his claim to know experience was 20 minutes on his honeymoon in Cancun. And one of those big sit on top kayaks with his wife.

And, but we all shared the same kind of mindset that adapted, overcome mindset and that willingness to take [00:35:00] on a big challenge and just to figure it out. So before we know it, you know, they’ve all said, yes, and we’re on our first zoom call in the middle of lockdown, number one. And we’re like, right.

What it was, whether it was me leading it, it was me, you know, just find the fact that it was my idea. I’d become the expedition leader or team captain. And it was just a 12 month long problem-solving process of right. Well, how do we acknowledge that we’re all complete novice eco hikers here. And B how do we acknowledge that we’ve all got life-changing injury.

So. Ben had been shot seven times and operations Lucas to do an ID in Afghanistan. Johnny had just commissioned at Sandhurst, had a stroke, was paralyzed on the left side of his body and fought to rehabilitate his body. But we’re still left with a neurological impairment. Carl had a spinal injury as well.

So there’s five non paddlers, you know, probably me had done the most paddling and [00:36:00] five life-changing injuries. Attempting to do something that has never been done by people. And it never been done by team and never been done by anybody with a injury disability have been done twice by real high level.

You know, people that knew what they were doing. And, you know, that’s how kite for heroes was formed. That was how the greatest achievement of my life kind of came into being. And when I told people at the local kayaking club down the road from me, you know, quite a lot of experience, whitewater, paddlers, and sea paddlers, they were saying what well, I think initially they were like, Hey, you mad and B, when you thinking of doing it.

And I was like, well, next year, and it was that classic back to physio in hospital, roll of the eyes. And it was like, Darren you know, I wouldn’t do this for any less than three years training. And I was like three years now. We’re doing it next year. And there we go. Just like that. You’ve, you’ve set your statement and you set your stall out to do something incredible.

I think when you [00:37:00] decide on doing these, the longer you plan, the longer you train while it’s a good thing. And the more sort of you look at, I don’t know, the health and safety, the less likely you are to actually go and do it. Because if you wait up all their sort of, you know, health and safety aspects or all the sort of problems that could go wrong, or all the logistics, and eventually you just be like, ah, this is too complicated.

Like, we can’t do this. Whereas if you go with that sort of slight sense of naivety and just DNA, then that you have, especially then, then you, you can pretty much go out and things will go wrong. They always do. But by having that sort of drive and that enthusiasm for. Then I always think that’s usually one of the best ways of going about it, for sure.

For sure. I think the expression that we use pretty much every day on the [00:38:00] expedition was naive enough to start stubborn enough to finish. That was like the mantra that’s like every time, every time it got like a little bit shit or less, Maybe like lads may even have to start and like someone else to be like the stub enough to finish, you know, whenever I was cold and wet and tired, always like half, four in the morning.

And that’s when we had to start paddling because of the tide times, you know, you were like cursing yourself. But yeah, we didn’t know. We knew that kind of like the rough numbers. So I knew in that first scene, I was like, right. That’s 1,400 kilometers. That’s a distance. That’s the rough distance. I reckon it will take us 35 days.

I reckon, you know, we’re going to be paddling on average 50 kilometers a day. I knew the numbers because I’d like sat there and I’d mapped it and I’d done. I didn’t know anything about tide times or neap tides or spring ties. I was like educating myself, like honest to God. I bought you. This will make you laugh.

But I bought this book, which was like C K. It was like, I actually bought a book called sea kayak because there was like Ronnie to know what we’re [00:39:00] doing. So it was educating myself, educating the team. But yeah, we didn’t really know what we were learning ourselves into really. And then. As part of our like 12 month bill, that process, we brought on board, a guy called Jim Taylor Ross from epic kayaks.

And he is probably the, one of those experienced ECAC is in the UK and, and runs great Britain’s ocean paddling team. And it was him that kind of like he was right. Does, but let’s sit down and look over the map and look over your chosen route. And it was when we were looking over this map and over this route, he was like, right.

I just wanna point out a few things for you here. Any points down about 10 spots and only through. Each spot, the common theme was risk of death, risk of . So you had malt point, which in more infringe means death. So it is quite affectionately known as death point doom bar, you know, the expression, whether the term, the word doom being the key one there there was one in Scotland called the Gulf of Korea.

so people [00:40:00] that know it will know it, and there’s a Whirlpool there, which is 10 meters wide. And if you get your timing’s wrong, there’s a YouTube video of an in my life, lifeboat being pulled into it and like the iron my life, I struggling to get out because the pool is that strong. And he said to me, he was like, guys, if you get this wrong, if you get this timing wrong, you will be dragged into that, sucked down and spat out 10 miles offshore in the IRC dead.

And like it wasn’t much of a morale booster like his, his, his chat about these templates is, but it definitely gave me a better understanding of the kind of, I guess the level of severity of the challenge and the kind of serious nature of it. Not that we weren’t taking it seriously, but like we say, in naive city, there is a little bit of yeah.

Even perhaps, yeah, I suppose it’s also mitigating the sort of big risks and looking into that, I mean, you sort of, [00:41:00] as you say, it’s good to go over a sense of naivety, but when doing, especially by sea, you definitely want to know exactly where, where you can mitigate. Yeah, for sure. And we did that, so we kind of, you know, the, the plan evolves week by week, initially it was going to be right.

We’re doing this no safety boat. We’re just gonna. Yeah, doing it on our own improve in. And it was that I think there was that stubbornness and that perhaps overcompensation of someone with a injury, trying to prove that there’s no limits kind of thing. But as we brought Jim on and we learned more about what we’re actually taking on the kind of the real, like seriousness of this challenge, we made that those mitigation.

So we introduced the safety boat kind of thing, and we knew that we’d have a safety boat there. If anything went wrong and thank God we did because there were days where things did go wrong. And if we didn’t have the safety boat there, Jesus would have been a completely different scenario. And we knew that to mitigate some of the risks of coastal [00:42:00] paddling, we use the expression that deep, deep waters, our friend.

And by that we meant that we did the majority of our paddling 5k offshore. So we were five kilometers, you know, away from the cliffs, five kilometers away from tidal races that could. You know, screw us over if we got it wrong. So whilst all of a sudden you feel like a very small object in a massive sea of blue with waves and swell, we were a safe distance away from the tower and cliffs that, you know, that the Cornish coastline is bright coastline for a reason.

It says history of, you know, catching people out. So we kind of thought that the safest thing to do working with Jim to formulate the plan was to, was to stay deep and stay as far away from the cliffs as we could, without going too far into the Atlantic ocean, obviously. And on that journey where you, because you’ve got where were you sort of staying where you sleeping and [00:43:00] BMPs where you can’t Wildcat?

So, so we were all prepared. So we were, I was up for camping. I was like, I thought it’d be brilliant, you know? But know on the beach. Yeah. And the reality of it was, I think, you know, the. The attrition rate of our bodies and especially like everybody’s injuries flared up in different ways. So mine, precious orders were actually the biggest thing for me.

So when you can’t feel you, you bomb and you sat down for long periods, salt, water, sweat rub, you know, you really need to keep on top of it. Because for me, I was petrified that within the first week I’d have a pressure sore, and that would be me off the expedition. Johnny, you know, the kind of like knock on effects of his stroke have been that when he’s cold, wet and tired, his body starts to shut down, neurologically his body shuts down and, and we saw it happen.

So from an accommodation point of view, we made, you know, we, we kind of put those mitigations in place where we actually would treat ourselves. So we, we had the luxury [00:44:00] of Travelodge supporting us and we’ve kind of used some of the travel lodge accommodation up the country just to get a warm bed, hot shower.

Admittedly, we weren’t in some of these beds for very long because by the time. Got off the water, got our kit sorted planned for the next day, gone through a team briefing. You know, by time, like I’d led the brief in and then done the planning for the next day. I might not be getting my head down until 11 and then we might be up at four because we’re on the water at five.

So it was a lot of quick turn around. But yeah, I think having, having some way to have a warm shower and get our heads down and, you know, just to appreciate the fact that we weren’t five grizzly paddlers, we were five guys trying to push themselves so far out of their comfort zone and achieve something that had never been done before.

And we’re trying to make a statement for what people with disabilities can achieve. And there aren’t many people in the event in the adventure community that have got disabilities, there’s just, you know, there’s not many of [00:45:00] us kind of thing. So we were doing it. We were flying the flag for, you know, injury and disability, adventure.

Wow. And where have you sort of coming out? How long did it, how long, how long did the sort of expedition take? So we, we we’d banked on 35, right. And we’d banked on 50 kilometers a day. And then day one, we hit 50 and we were like, sweet. It can be done. We can do this. And then day two, we hit 55 and we were like, damn, we’re getting good at this.

You know, and the process and the machine, like the, we were getting slicker at our drills in terms of just our timings on and off the water from day one, within 10 minutes of paddling, I capsized and I in my head that like invoice of the inner critic that we all have in the back of our heads was going over time because I was, you know, I, I was feeling the pressure of, of leading it.

I was feeling the pressure of showing that [00:46:00] I was a competent, confident paddler and 10 minutes in I’m upside down. And the safety vote is kind of coming in and it’s like, all right, dad, should we get you out? You know, so we were in Dublin kayaks and I turned it back up and I was like, no, we’re getting back in.

So like it took three attempts to drag myself back onto the cockpit and to get my legs. In first two occasions, we flopped back out the other side, but I was just so determined to prove that we could do it. And so for me personally, every day was a struggle. But those first couple of days, with each day, I got more confident and more relaxed, which is a huge bit of paddling and dealing with the waves.

I was trying to fight every wave and try and fight every bit as well. So I think as we all went through that process, the first day we were all nervous. People were sea sick. If people weren’t sea sick, the other person was throwing up because you were next to somebody who sees that if it was the second puke and there was other stuff as well, And, but with each day that when we ended up clocking out more miles and we were hitting about 60, [00:47:00] 65 kilometers a day, we were extending our paddling window to about eight hours on the water, eight hours of physical paddling.

So I think a weekend, we were three days ahead of schedule. And we were only yet. We said to ourselves that we’d made the decision that we don’t only have days off if weather permits, if weather meant that we couldn’t physically paddle, or we could just see it on ourselves. If we needed a day, we weren’t going to talk to ourselves and we could see when everybody was struggling.

So we did have a couple of days and before we know it, it’s day 25 and we’re at the Northeast coast of Scotland. And we’re one day from John and roads. And I mean, I know that I’ve just condensed 26 days of expedition into, into about 30 seconds there. We were absolutely like flying as a team. And we were learning to not try and fight the weather and fight the wind, fight the waves.

We were learning to run with the waves. And there were days where, you know, your average paddling speed is probably eight kilometers an hour. And there were days where we were catching waves and we [00:48:00] were surging at like 20 kilometers an hour. And there are days where I felt like I was getting thrown out the back of a kayak and my backrest was like fully straightened.

And I was like riding this wave and scream. And as we were doing it and just having the time of our lives, and there were a couple of days, so we hit a hundred kilometer days. We were paddling for 11 hours and we were just like, right. This, everything is perfect. Everything is going our way. Let’s keep paddling.

Let’s try and like maximize progress as much as we could because there were days where things didn’t go well. There were, there were a couple of days where things really could have gone wrong and, you know, we had to make a decision to cut things short. There was one day where an idea of mine. Instead of following the coastline round, Northeast England into the Southwest Scotland, we could straight line it from the coast of lake district all the way to north, south, Southwest Scotland, to a place called Kirkcudbright, which is not how you pronounce it as Scottish kind of correct to us when we were there.

But I don’t want to try and say it properly cause I’ll mess it up even more. [00:49:00] But what we had was an 80 kilometer crossing across the RFC that could save us three days worth of paddling. So it was one punchy ambitious day. And I, you know, it was a calculated risk, but in my head I was like, we should do this and we can do this with the safety boat.

We can do it. So we’re in the middle of the cross in about 40 kilometers in and we’re in the middle of the RS. And visibility’s okay. Not great, but over the course of the day, we’re about halfway through the day, halfway there, the visibility is dropping and you can just see it minute by minute, coming closer to the point where we’re probably down to about 10 meter visibility, CMS, and all of a sudden, w we’ve got no awareness of there’s various crossing.

Cause you’ve got, there’s a middle of a busy shipping lane and there was a decision to be made as to whether this is safe anymore. We’re using the safety boat is the kind of point of reference and the safety boats ahead [00:50:00] of the kayak. And it’s trailing the safety boat. And because we had five paddlers with four paddling seats, we were rotating like who the paddlers were for the days.

So. Myself, I’m on the safety boat at this point. And I’m sat next to Chris. Who’s our rib driver, safer driver. And Jim’s behind me is a safety advisor, like I said, and we’re looking at the screen in front and we we’re trying to make a decision as to what do we do? You know, if we were to cut and run now, where are we going?

Because we’re 40 K from Belfast, 40 K from here, 40 K from there. And it was, while we were looking at the screen, we’d lost, you know, awareness of what was going on behind us. And it wasn’t until I think one of us turned round and we turned around just to see a wall of gray wall of missed no boat, no kayak.

So I jumped on the radio and I was like, Darren, Luke mate, can you, can you see. Can you see the boat and just gave it a couple of seconds. Nothing came back and I was like, Hmm. Okay. And I [00:51:00] was like, Darren, Darren, Luke, Darren Cole, mate, just comstat can you, can you let us know? You can hear me and all I was expecting backwards, like yep.

Can hear you. Or, you know, just any indication that they, they could hear us. Cause we didn’t have visibility on them. We couldn’t hear them. And we couldn’t communicate with them. And as the seconds tick by, and then minutes started to tick by, we cut the engine on the boat and we just sat and waited and thought, if we sit here, they’ll physically catch up with us and they’ll they’ll we’ll we’ll see them.

And then the minute it started to tick by, and we’re probably about 15 minutes in now, I’m panic. You know, I’m feeling a huge way of pressure at this point because we’ve got a boat missing in the middle of the RFC. And a lot of things could happen here. A lot of scenarios could unfold and we can’t control them.

So we ended up turning the boat round, going back down our previous line. And we go back for about five minutes just thinking that maybe they’ve capsized and, and we’ll see what happens, pick them up and nothing. And we were trying to [00:52:00] the whole time trying to get in comms with them on the radio is nothing.

And we’re just really deciding what is the next line of escalation here? What do we do now? Jim’s got his thoughts. Chris has got his thoughts and we need to make a decision and just through pure good fortune as we’re coming back up to where we cut the engines. Originally, we see a really faint gray kind of like blob of Hayes coming through and we vomit over and it’s Carl and Luke and we’re like, you know, so relieved, just, they didn’t know.

We were trying to get in contact with them. I was like, Lance, so you’re not getting anything I was sending through. And they were like, no. And as far as they were concerned, they thought that they just lost us slightly. And they were following us through the mess. They had no idea, but what they’d done a bit, like when you walk in a desert, you’ve got one dominant foot, they veered off left and we don’t only seen them again because they were so disoriented in the mist.

They’d done a full loop and we happen to intersect them at the point where they’d come [00:53:00] back on our line and had that not happened. Had they not done a full loop? Had they just done a kind of a slow Slovenia? They could have ended up, you know, in, you know, degrading conditions in the middle of the IRC and God knows what it could have happened, sort of thing.

So there were a couple of days where things were, were less than ideal, stressful. By the time we got back to shore back to report, there was like a huge sigh of relief. And then there were days where everything went brilliant and we put crews in families, a dolphin swimming alongside the kayaks. And there were moments where there was one day when we were paddling through one of the locks in the Northwest of Scotland.

And I was like really pushing myself to keep the speed up. And I was just in the zone. I was in the, I was, I was in my element and as we were paddling, there was just this real lovely realization that nothing in my life had changed. I was still exactly the same person. I was the day before my accident [00:54:00] to four years, four and a half years later.

And I think it was the first time I really, really felt it in my heart. I really kind of, you know, it, wasn’t just telling myself that I was still the same person I knew I was, I have this. We’ll like fuzzy feeling ass sounds a little bit kind of cliche, but that nothing had changed that I was still, I’d never lost my sense of identity.

Cause I was still the same version of me pushing my limits, doing stuff that was adventurous and being outdoors. What a story it’s just a, it’s just an incredible, just an incredible sort of feet of, you know, you guys going out and sort of showing that there’s no limits to what you can achieve and no matter what happens to you in life, whatever tries to sort of bring you down, you can always sort of rise up and, you know, Achieve, [00:55:00] whatever you sort of set your mind to it, you have this sort of very strong, positive mindset and you know, this sort of growth mindset in a sense, do you, I imagine you probably had that even before your accident, but even now, is this hugely important to you?

Yeah, for sure. For sure. And it’s, I think it’s something that we’re all born with. I think we all have this innate ability to be resilient but much like any other muscle in our body, you can train it and you train it and by failing and you train, you train it by trying, you don’t always have to achieve like the, you know, for me not achieving my kind of like goal of qualifying for the Paralympics was a failure and it was a huge failure and it was, yeah, it was hard to take at the time.

But off the back of that I learned and I put into action. What. Yeah, the momentum I built up over three years into something that would be my greatest achievement. And I think if we’re not resilient, our first failure [00:56:00] is often our last failure because you then don’t put yourself into some of the most resilient people.

I’ve met kids and it’s because kids, aren’t scared of trying and failing kids. You know, as, as, as you’re in that kind of phase of your life, you’re constantly learning to ride a bike, falling off, learning, to ride a bike, falling off a little bit less. And you’re, you’re constantly doing things for the first time and doing things for the first time often means not being great at them.

And then we become an adult and a lot of us get into a comfort zone and we know that we can play tennis to a certain level of play football to a certain level. So we stay at that. And when we don’t push ourselves out of our comfort zone. So I think I was so fortunate that in a buildup to my accent, I’d embrace.

Failing and, you know, everybody that rock climbs or mountaineers will, will agree that the first time you try something is not often the time that it succeed, you succeed or, you know, or it goes as well as possible. You have to [00:57:00] learn to overcome a particular crux or move or particular pitch of a climb or whatever it might be.

And I just took that same mindset into my injury and kind of, you know, accepted that I’m going to be doing a lot of things for the first time again now. And that is still very much the mindset I left with. I’m not, I’ve learned to not be scared of failure. I’ve learned to control the, the voice of doubt in my own head.

I think everybody probably everybody’s their own worst critic. And I don’t think you can ever turn that off. I’ve never been able to turn that voice in the back of my head off. And like I say, Day, one of the expedition capsize, and 10 minutes in that voice was very much in full force because it was trying to say told you, you can’t do this.

Somebody, you know, this hasn’t been done by someone like you before, because it can’t be done. And I’ve just learned to say, cheers, but I disagree and almost to enjoy proving it wrong and to kind of [00:58:00] say, well, I’ll tell you what I’ll show you. So I think being resilient has been the biggest asset to me, overcoming a life-changing injury and being able to achieve the things that I’m setting myself out to do.

And the thing with the exhibition, we didn’t even know there was no guarantees. We weren’t going to succeed. So we could be having this conversation today. And I can say to you that on day 20, we, we, you know, we had to cancel it because we were, we were at our limits and we can achieve it. But I know that because I’m a resilient person and I have a resilient mind.

I wouldn’t let the failure of the expedition den, any future plans.

Yeah, I I sort of agree. It’s and that’s probably led quite nicely to your next expedition that’s happening next year or what you’re training for the [00:59:00] moment for P for people listening. What, what is, what are you aiming to achieve from it? So off the back of the back of the hiking expedition, a couple of doors open, and one of which was to do the Wellmark and challenge.

So for those of you that don’t know that’s to run seven marathons in seven days on seven different constants. So the first one being in Antarctica, and then you bounce. Day one from Antarctica day to South Africa, day three, Perth, Australia, and you bounce from constant constant, and you do seven American seven days.

Now, less people have done this than a climbed Everest. I think the number that have done the world Barton challenges is like 180. So it’s kind of, you know, it’s got that exclusivity, which has always kind of sounds quite good. And importantly, for me, it’s never been done by anybody with in a wheelchair it’s never been done unsupported by anybody with a disability.

So there’s another kind [01:00:00] of nice element here of being able to prove. What someone with a disability can achieve. Now, I’m not entirely sure how wheelchair plus snow and ice is going to work in Antarctica. So I’ll let you know, could still be stuck there like 20 hours later, but I’m pretty sure I’ll get myself around the marathon distance, but so that will be in it was originally scheduled for February 20, 22 cause a COVID it’s now been pushed back to November.

So I will throw myself wholeheartedly into lots and lots of, lots of miles in the wheelchair in the new year. Another one close to my heart, which will be earlier in the year will be in may, will be two to row the English channel in, in memory of my father who died in September this year. He’d struggled with mental health for good couple of years.

And COVID really, really, really impacted him as it did a lot of people. And he sadly took his own life in September this year. So I kind of wanted to do something. Yeah. [01:01:00] Would be in memory of him and could be a way of raising money for the mental health charities that supported him towards the end. So I think trying to control what I can control and do something positive from what is a negative to be resilient, to, you know, the passing of my dad and to do something in his memory.

So we’re going to be rowing the channel and I’ve put together a team of eight people that have each gone through their own mental health journeys that have lost people as a result of mental health or have gone through that themselves and pull themselves back from the brink. So we’re going to be in, in may 20 strains to Rowan the channel for mental health charities and going for the world record time, of course, which is three hours 51 currently.

So we’re going to go for three hours 50. That is the joke, but I am semi-serious about it as well. And yeah, that’s, that’s the first thing and that’s, that’s a real, a real personal one for me for next year has got a real emotional connection to. [01:02:00] So it’s adventure with a real purpose of, of, you know celebrating the life of, of my dad and also helping others to hopefully make sure that people get the help they need and they don’t end up in that position.

Cause yeah, mental health is tough. Well, hopefully you know, you can use that drive to get the world record. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Well, every, every stroke would be with a bit more vigor because of that. Yeah. I’m so sorry to hear that. As I say mental health is definitely something which affects, I don’t know anyone who hasn’t known someone or themselves is not affected by.

And it’s probably in the last few years with everything that’s going on almost become worse and worse. Yeah, no, I agree. I agree. I think it, you know, for, to use the analogy of filling up a glass [01:03:00] of a glass of water, you know, you’ve got your third of your cup full because of work stress, third of your cup full because of financial pressures.

And then it’s not, it doesn’t take much more to, to keep adding to that glass before you’re overflowing. And if you don’t know how to deal with that, or you don’t have the support network to help you deal with that, it can seem quite desperate. And for, you know, for people like my dad, I know that his mental health meant that he saw himself as a I don’t know, it’s still a bit raw to talk about, I guess, but, you know, he saw himself as a drain and he saw himself as almost like a liability because of the way he was feeling.

So, yeah, yeah. Tricky one to talk about. Well, I think it’s a very exciting about this the sort of adventures that you’re doing. And as I say, hopefully [01:04:00] everyone listening can sort of follow along and support it. And I mean, it’s been such a pleasure listening to your stories, and as you say, you speak so well.

And so passionately about, you know, overcoming adversity in the last sort of five years with everything that’s gone on. And yeah, so, I mean, there’s a part of the show where we ask the same five questions to each guest each week with the first being on, you know, your trip and adventures. What’s the one gadget that you always take with you.

Okay. Yeah. Got it. Got to we, we had already one of the 360 ones on the front of the kayak and the expansion. It was good. It was, it was a little bit of a novelty purchase, I guess, but yeah, some of the footage that we got from that I think, and so much of so rubbish itself, promotion, [01:05:00] I’m so rubbish at social media, but you kind of in the modern world, you have to capture it to prove you’ve done it and to spread the word.

And especially when you’re trying to achieve something bigger than yourself. So when you, when we were trying to like champion what injury and disability meant in terms of the limits that you don’t have, we had to document the thing to, to prove. And so kind of like put people up there to show, you know, what could be achieved if, if you’ve just had a stroke, like Johnny did five years ago or whatever it might be, or you have some form of life and you, so, yeah.

So so some way of documenting the adventures, I think is the answer. What about your favorite adventure or travel book? Just so before the film came out, I’d read beyond possible by NIMS 14 peaks, which has obviously was then turned into 14 pizza Netflix. So I read that book when it first came out and was in all of that.

I know it’s a, probably a bit of a popular choice at the [01:06:00] moment, but that book really inspired me and I, and I read that before we went on the expedition. So the whole idea of nothing is impossible. I think stuck in my brain for the duration of the expedition. Why are adventures important to you? I think there’s so many bits to this.

Isn’t there. I think for me, adventure is like a way of life and I’m sure you share that. And everybody that listened to share that it’s just a way that we want to live our lives. And it’s a way of living a fulfilling life. And for me, it’s, it takes both boxes of physical and emotional maintenance and recovery.

So for me, I’m still very much going through my physical recovery. I know it’s five years after my accident, but I’m still getting myself to where I want to be. So adventure gives me that and it gives me those emotional and psychological ticks in the box that mountaineering and climbing used to do.

[01:07:00] So I think the biggest tragedy of my injury would have been letting it, letting it stop me living an adventurous life. That would’ve been the real trauma that would’ve been the real loss. So not losing that has been the most beautiful kind of positive from my extent. So the adventure. There’s been a part of my life for, since they were 17 and continues to be despite being disabled.

I’ll say that with the old,

yeah. I saw the video that you put up or you walking up the steps the other day, which I imagine was a huge win. Yeah. So steps become like a mortal enemy when you’re in a wheelchair, because there might be two steps into some way and you’re like cursing yourself out. I’ll generally throw myself on the, on the floor and get up the stairs.

If I want to, if the [01:08:00] reward is worth the effort, I’ll still do it. But I’m incredibly fortunate enough to have something called a ReWalk exoskeleton. Which is a very futuristic robot that you strap to your body. And it comes up to just below my ribs and you can walk again and you learn to walk by moving your body weight and the robot and the exoskeleton reads what you’re trying to do.

So you have to try and walk. It sounds a bit bizarre to say that when you can’t move your legs, but you have to try and imitate the way that you would shift your body balance and it replicates the movement and walks for you. And it has a stair setting, which I’ve not been brave enough to try for about two years, cause I’ve just had visions of another fall.

I’m kind of done with falling now, but I kind of built up the courage to, to give it a go. And yeah, only what two weeks ago I was stood at the foot of a staircase in a, in the local leisure center. The [01:09:00] physio behind me and started climbing the stairs for the first time in five years. And it wasn’t until we were halfway up and then he was like, right, should we turn around and go back down.

I turned around to go back down and all my God, I had the shock of my life. I was like, just stay as he used to look this scary, the stairs, always the low this and yeah, growing up was fine. So I’m going to, I’ve made a throwaway comment. So my partner, there’s, there’s a joke and serious at the same time that in next year, I’d like to see if I can climb the shard in the, in the legs, do the, to the staircase because that’d be it.

I think that’d be quite a powerful thing and do that for charity as well to find out if that’s feasible at all, but I’ll throw it out there into the universe and hopefully we’ll make it happen. I’m sure. Well, I will happily join. Join you in that one. If you need some company,

I to say, what about your favorite. So it’s by Stephen King and it’s you can, you should, and you [01:10:00] will. So a motto to live by for if you ever have an idea. So climbing the shard, you can, you should, and you will. So it’s a, it’s an awful thing to say though, because it just, you just get yourself into so many different kinds of things.

Every time I have an idea and I say that quote in my head, I’m like, damn, I’ve got to do it now, then

say yes, a bit more. Yeah. People listening, always keen to travel and go on these grand adventures. What’s the one thing you would recommend for people wanting to get started? I think not to be daunted by how not to be afraid of starting with something small, you know, when you, you kind of set yourself a huge challenge, it can, the ultimate goal can look quite scary.

So if you on day one of something and you think I’ve got 35 days of this, it suddenly becomes a lot more daunting than if you break it down into your smaller segments and you [01:11:00] kind of like compartmentalize it a little bit. So for me, you know, my adventures to start with when I was living, my new chapter of life would look so mundane now, like kayaking around the swimming pool was the epitome of adventure for, for day one of my life post hospital.

Whereas if I was to go and do that, now I’d be bored. I’d go and do laps around the pool and be like, all right, sweet. Should we go and do something else? Kind of thing. So not to be put off by making a small statement and letting that small statement be, what was the expression that the hardest step is often the first is that it’s taking the first step basically.

Yeah. Is often the hardest step. So not to be. You know, and a lot of people do like these couch to 5k A’s and stuff. Don’t they, and that, and probably the scariest part of a couch to 5k for someone that’s never run before. Hasn’t, you know perhaps looks after their [01:12:00] physical fitness, is, is that very first run.

So if you want to be adventurous and live an adventurous life, start small and grow from there, don’t try and do something like a guy came from London to join groups before you’ve kayaked in the local swimming pool is the takeaway there. Yeah. And I imagine for anyone does the sort of couch to 5k, if you can get past the first one, I managed to go for the second run because even like myself, nothing, nothing worse than when you haven’t done anything for a month or two, and then go on this run.

And you’re like almost having a heart attack almost, you know, grabbing every bit of oxygen you can. And yeah. Say it is just taking those small steps that make a huge difference.

And finally, what are you doing now? And how can people find you and follow you when you next? Go on this big adventure? Yeah. So couple of things, I guess, [01:13:00] website, first one, www.darrenedwards.org.uk, coz.common.co.uk with taken sadly. So dot all that UK seemed like the next best thing on Instagram.

Darren Edwards, underscore adventure. Same on Facebook and yeah, I will. Despite being rubbish at social media attempt to keep all of those up to date as much as possible. Well, we’ll put a link of them in the description below so you can follow him and got it. It’s just been such a pleasure listening to your stories, Darren and I cannot thank you enough for coming on today and please you know, go check them out and yeah, we look forward as we look forward to following your big adventure in the future. [01:14:00]

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