Chris Jones is an ex-soldier who was injured while training and has organised a cross country marathon around Dartmoor.
Every now and then you read a story about a person that leaves you totally humbled and makes you realise how lucky you are to be able to ride bikes.
Have a read below at Chris Jones’ courageous story and if you think you can help in anyway then hit up Chris’ blog at Not the London Marathon 2012 and check out the Dartmoor Adaptive Marathon Facebook page.
Having left the Army through injury in 1998, I have spent over a decade looking for adaptive means of enjoying the sports I love. For the first two years I was busy having treatments to get me back on my feet, and sports and outdoor activities were far from my mind, but in 2000 a friend suggested I should try kayak surfing, as he had seen people doing it and, of course, I could do it sitting down. I started off with some very old, and cheap, equipment, but soon developed some great skills and began to be noticed by those further up in the sport. I was invited to contests and became involved in developing some new kayak designs, and by 2003/4 I was one of the World’s top kayak surfers.
I quickly lost interest in the contest scene and began to develop a reputation for exploring more challenging waves, and as part of this exploration I had started sea kayaking as a means of exploring the coastlines from a kayakers perspective. Suddenly, in 2009, I was diagnosed with a brain condition that I was told would make it dangerous for me to spend time on the water, especially on my own, but I was determined to ignore this and press on with things as best as I could, given that my life was already restricted enough.
Then, in July 2010, I had a near death experience when my brain shut down whilst I was out paddling, and it was only the cool head of my then eleven year old Son, the kindliness of two passing strangers, and the professionalism of the RNLI, Coastguard, and NHS Paramedics, that let me leave the beach with my life. Later that year I had another episode, though luckily at home, and the two incidents combined left me under no illusions that I would need to drastically cut the amount of time I spent on the water.
Due to having to stop paddling and surfing, I needed to find alternative ways of getting outdoors and keeping fit, healthy and active, not least of all because fitness is a key route to controlling my brain condition. So, what next? An obvious land-based alternative to surfing is skiing and snowboarding, and so I started looking for places where I could take part in the adaptive versions of these activities. Unfortunately the nearest place to home is a 430 mile round trip, and the hire cost for the equipment is, of course, as all disabled equipment is, three times that of the ordinary equivalents. The cost of travel and hire combined to make this activity sadly unaffordable for anything other then a taster day, so I decided to look at what activities people were pursuing locally in Devon.
Cycling was something I had previously done for years, but following my injuries was something I thought was beyond me. Two years ago I bought an electric bike and got back into cycling, though I was limited to riding well paved routes, but living on the edge of Dartmoor I was missing out on my real passion for mountain biking. I started to look for alternative ways of cycling, but although there is a wealth of adaptive equipment available, very little of it is suitable for proper off road riding. There are half a dozen bikes available, but all come from overseas, and prices start at around £4000, but for a truly capable bike I would be looking at a minimum of £5000!!!
These prices were way beyond my pocket, but by sheer chance I came across a fifteen year old bike that had been built for gentle off road riding, canal paths and the like, which I bought for £350. I very quickly needed to push myself more and more, and started riding the bike on the Woodland Riders tracks at Tavi Woods and Gawton, despite it not having any suspension and only one brake, not to mention front wheel drive and a propensity for tipping over when cornering!!! Frankly, it’s as basic as a bike can get, but it’s all I have and so I make the most of it!
Back in the days after my discharge I had a load of help from the Royal British Legion, and they’ve continued helping me ever since. Last year I decided it was time to try and pay them back a bit, and so I put myself down to ‘run’ the London Marathon on my crutches to raise some money. I got one of the RBL’s places for the 2012 London Marathon, but was advised that I could not do the marathon on crutches (the exact medical advice was that I could kill myself if I wasn’t careful), and the London Marathon committee will only allow disabled participants to compete in a certified wheelchair (which costs £3500+), and then only after completing a qualifying marathon in under three-and-a-half hours. All-in-all I got the impression that I was not supposed to do the London Marathon, and so I decided to create my own marathon that I could do using the equipment I already owned, hence the Dartmoor Adaptive Marathon was born!
I will cycle my bike 26 miles across the moors, mostly off-road, in around eight hours, and will be doing it to raise £1800 for the RBL (which would have been my target for the London Marathon). The best thing is that it has generated so much interest that I am going to try to turn it into an annual event that other disabled cyclists can come and take part in!
The route starts at Burrator reservoir, in the car park to the North West of the dam, drops down to cross the Yelverton-Princetown road, and then follows the old railway line up round King’s Tor and into Princetown. Crossing the road again, we pick up the bridleway running South East out of Princetown towards Nunn’s Cross Farm, then head West (ish) past Crazy Well Pool and across the North end of the reservoir, back up to the car park. The second loop follows the same rout up to Princetown and back, but this time it heads South from Nunn’s Cross Farm to eventually come out at the scout hut South East of Sheepstor. Then we head through Sheepstor village, up to the dam, and finish at the ice-cream van on the West side of the dam itself.