Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Ex-soldier tackles 'Spartan' course

Double amputee James Simpson tackles the fire obstacle during the Spartan Super Race
Double amputee James Simpson tackles the fire obstacle during the Spartan Super Race
Double amputee James Simpson tackles the Spartan Super Race in Warwickshire

A former soldier who became the first double amputee to complete the gruelling Spartan Race obstacle course has gone one step further.

James Simpson, who lost both legs while on duty in Afghanistan, became the first British double amputee to run a Spartan Race obstacle course when he completed the four-mile sprint challenge in Ripon, North Yorkshire, earlier this month.

Today the former Lance Bombardier, who has since left the Army to go back to college, returned to face an even tougher course in the Spartan Super at the West Midlands Water Ski Centre in Warwickshire.

Running in his "stubbies", small pads that fit on the bottom of what is left of his thighs, he tackled obstacles including leaping over flaming logs and scaling 30ft high cargo nets over an eight-mile course - double the length of the previous challenge.

Mr Simpson was serving with 5th Regiment, Royal Artillery when he stepped on an improvised explosive device as he returned from a foot patrol in Helmand. He lost both his legs above the knee and damaged both his arms in the blast in November 2009.

Speaking at the event, he said: "It's a lot longer and quite challenging but I'm enjoying it. I'm on my stubbies today because I realised during the sprint earlier this month that they were the best to be on. More nimble."

Mr Simpson, who has started an access course in social sciences at college, said: "I'm back because I'm wanting to raise as much money as possible for SSAFA.

"I'm also doing it because I can, and hopefully I can encourage more people to do it and more amputees to get involved in future."

Richard Lee, race director of Spartan Race UK, said: "I think James is an incredible ambassador. For him to come back to face an even more gruelling challenge after taking part in the sprint is just great.

"He has a sense of determination and a real spirit to overcome adversity and to keep on going".

Describing the course, the former Royal Marine Commando said: "It's a battlefield out there. The obstacles are more difficult and it gets more physical as you progress up the course."

The Spartan Race, named after the fearless Ancient Greek warriors, aims to "test your resilience, strength, stamina and quick decision-making skills" in an endurance race that includes crawling through mud and leaping over log fires.

The race organisers plan 78 events worldwide this year, across the Americas, Europe and Australia, which amounts to an increase of nearly half on the number staged in 2012.

National Armed Forces charity SSAFA helps former and serving members of the UK British Armed Forces and their families. Mr Simpson's money-raising website can be found at www.justgiving.com/James-Simpson13.

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