Ian joined the Royal Marines in 2003 and after successfully completing Commando Training he went on to enjoy a varied career, serving in several countries around the world including Norway and Afghanistan.
In 2011 he ruptured the ligaments in his ankle and had a partial rupture to the tendon in his arm. After rehabilitation, he returned to full fitness but six months later he became infected with salmonella poisoning. This triggered a condition called Reactive Arthritis, causing severe inflammation and pain to multiple joints within his body, lethargy, conjunctivitis and ulcers.
Ian admits that he struggled to come to terms with his condition: “When I became ill I lost everything, my career, my hobbies, my sense of self-worth. Simple tasks such as walking, dressing, and using a knife and fork were extremely difficult. I isolated myself and became very depressed”
The medication he was prescribed had numerous unwanted side effects and prevented him and his wife from having a family. Unable to continue with the career and active lifestyle he enjoyed Ian became withdrawn.
“I have always trained for a reason – to be a better rugby player or Marine, but both of those things were taken away from me when I became ill. I do my rehabilitation work to keep my joints mobile and to cope with daily living and tasks, but being selected for the Raid 17 team has really given me the drive to push myself hard again.”
Road cycling is a new sport for Ian: “It’s ideal because I can’t compare myself to the person I was before I became ill. I’ve been asked to coach rugby, but it’s something I can’t do because I still really want to play. Cycling doesn’t affect me like that. It’s a non-impact sport so it is ideal for my condition. Raid 17 has given me a reason to train! My legs have become very strong and I walk a lot better.”
His fitness has also improved and he is now classed as being above average fitness for his age. Ian believes the challenge has also had a positive impact on his life and relationship with his wife: “When I am frustrated with life I now get outside and ride my bike. It has given me an outlet again that used to be my job, running, playing rugby or going to the gym. Cycling has replaced them and given me back a real sense of purpose!”
Despite still suffering with restricted movement and painful joints he relishes the challenge ahead and believes that completing it will be a defining point in his recovery:
“I’ve been a Royal Marine Commando for nearly 15 years! It has given me a very strong mindset! I won’t be beaten, I won’t give up, I will give it my all!
I have been a patient in Hasler NSRC (Naval Service Recovery Centre) for nearly 2 years. I have seen a lot of lads far worse off than myself and seen how they cope with life and stay motivated.
My mother has had 2 major strokes and cancer and still keeps going… she laughs and jokes with me all the time despite not being able to walk, or wash and dress herself. She inspires me to be positive and reminds me that life is precious and that you should grab it with both hands and make the most of it!”
Ian is looking forward to spending time with the team and completing the challenge together but he is under no illusion that it will be easy:
“I am dreading the long climbs! I’m probably one of the heavier members of the team so I have to work very hard climbing! During the Portugal training camp, I crashed and broke my arm so understand the dangers associated with road cycling! It feels good to be part of a team again, and the cohesion and sense of belonging I have experienced from this group is humbling! When the challenge is over there will undoubtedly be a massive void in my life, a sense of loss even, but it will be an incredible experience and we will have created lifelong friendships and memories!”
“My advice to anyone thinking about taking on a new challenge is to look at it carefully! Don’t underestimate it and be realistic about what you are able to do. Failure could be devastating, but once you find something give it your all and commit to it. The rewards, sense of purpose, pride and the people you will meet can be life changing!!”