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Ex-soldier Darren defies odds to complete epic charity challenge

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Darren Hardy during his 933km challenge for Help The Heroes

Darren Hardy during his 933km challenge for Help The Heroes

Darren Hardy during his 933km challenge for Help The Heroes

Darren Hardy during his 933km challenge for Help The Heroes

Darren Hardy during his 933km challenge for Help The Heroes

An Army veteran from Northern Ireland has completed an epic charity mission spanning almost 1,000km.

Darren Hardy, originally from Co Antrim, took on the multi-disciplinary challenge in aid of Help for Heroes to support wounded and sick veterans and their families.

He started by paddleboarding 112km from the east to west coast of Scotland via the Caledonian Canal, before cycling 651km between Fort William and Badbury.

On Monday he then ran a marathon to 'the Tin Hut' in Tidworth, the building from which Help for Heroes was launched 13 years ago, where he was greeted by his wife and daughters and members of Help for Heroes staff, including chief executive Mel Waters.

In all the fundraiser took in an energy-sapping 933km.

Having had to skip some miles on his cycle as a result of weather, technical issues and injury, Darren completed the final 128km on his bike on Tuesday to complete the full distance of his event.

On the first day of his cycle, in the heavy rain and gale force winds of Storm Ellen, he clipped a kerb and fell off, injuring his ribs.

He picked himself back up and carried on but the following day visited a doctor because of the pain. He ended up spending three and a half hours in a hospital in Stafford for treatment to a fractured rib, before getting back on his bike to continue.

The 34-year-old former soldier spent 15 years in the Army from 2003 to 2017, serving in Northern Ireland and Iraq, with multiple exercises overseas, from Poland to Canada.

His experiences left a lasting impact on him, including a seriously injured shoulder, and he has been diagnosed with PTSD.

Sport and training have become a big part of Darren's life as part of his recovery after he was medically discharged, from becoming a double gold medallist and Warrior Games record breaker to taking on extreme endurance challenges to push himself physically and mentally.

These extreme challenges create a focus point that enables him to better manage his PTSD.

Darren, who now lives in Fleet in Hampshire, said: "I wouldn't be here now if it wasn't for the help and support I got from the Help for Heroes Hidden Wounds team for my PTSD. I now want to give back and have a purpose in life.

"This event has tested me to my limits both physically and mentally, but I want to make a difference, inspire and change the lives of others that are less capable or can't change it themselves. I want them to live life to the fullest every single day."

Married and with two daughters, he is also an inspirational speaker who is keen on helping others with mental health issues.

He added: "My injuries impact on my life every day.

"I have now created a bulletproof mindset where I wake up at either 3.20am or 4.20am and seize the day by extreme physical training.

"Pushing myself physically also helps my mental wellbeing, so I want to motivate others to do the same so they can feel the benefits for themselves. If I can help just one person then I have achieved a small goal."

However, this was just a warm up for his second challenge - called 10 x 10 x 10.

Darren will attempt 10 Iron distance triathlons - a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run - in 10 days in 10 different locations around the UK.

He is hoping to secure two world records in the process.

David Martin, head of supporter fundraising at Help for Heroes, said Darren was an inspiration.

"We're so grateful for what Darren has done for us - not one, but two incredible challenges," he said.

"Research we've carried out shows there has been a big increase in veterans telling us that they aren't managing their mental and physical health so well since the start of the pandemic, so the need for support is greater than ever, but we're also having to manage a 40% drop in income at the same time.

"Darren knows first-hand how important our support can be, and it's wonderful that he's giving back in this way to ensure we can continue to support other veterans in need."

Belfast Telegraph