“Imagine your life changing overnight. Suddenly, the world you knew is not accessible. You must start from scratch, all over again. This is happening right now. Every day, seven people leave the Armed Forces with life changing injuries. Many struggle, meaning they and their families need specialist help to aid recovery from wounds both visible and hidden.” To raise awareness of PTSD and to raise funds for Help for Heroes – an organization that helps soldiers after deployment – former soldier Darren Hardy completed ten full-distance triathlons in ten days. The sport completely changed his life for the better, he told the Telegraph newspaper.
“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”.
At 17-years-old Hardy joined the army, and he could never have expected a deployment a few years later would turn his world upside down. “A helicopter got shot down, and we were picking up the body parts; you couldn’t tell the difference between helicopter and body, and we were trying to work out which part belonged to which body,” he continued in his Telegraph interview.
Hardy wasn’t immediately aware of the mental injuries he suffered from this terrible event. Nine years later another incident triggered the pain that was still inside him. When Hardy saw one of his colleagues fall into a fire, he collapsed. “The smell of the burning flesh – unknown to me at the time – triggered the incident (with the helicopter) I experienced back in 2006. I went through nine months of bottling it up. My temper was affected; I would implode, but also adopt the military stiff upper lip approach. Talking about it was seen as a weakness.”
In 2017 Hardy was diagnosed with PTSD, and he sought help from Help for Heroes. However, the thing that really helped him get back on track the most was triathlon. Hardy had long enjoyed sports, but that it could function as a form of therapy was a beautiful discovery. “It was a whole new me,” he said. “I was getting up at 4:30 am and training hard. I was trying to recreate the things that I couldn’t get anymore from the military. I believe in pushing the body more and more. I want to help others by proving that there is another way out, rather than taking their own life.”
Hardy completed ten full-distance triathlons in just as many days in different spots across England. He suffered both mentally and physically and hit some bumps on the road along the way, including hypothermia, an Achilles injury and trouble eating. It was ten rough days, but Hardy managed to complete his mission and raise over 13,000 pounds for Help for Heroes. His entire “race” was documented by Endurance TV and is available as a source of inspiration on their (paid) platform.