Pat served in the Royal Marines from 1974 to 2006 and saw operational service in Northern Ireland, The Balkans and Iraq. As a passionate mountaineer & skier, Pat has climbed extensively around the world including expeditions to Everest, Mt McKinley, Kilimanjaro and Antarctica. In 2008 he suffered a serious climbing accident resulting in a spinal injury and consequent permanent partial paralysis to feet and legs. In just a few weeks time he will be taking on Raid’17,
a 720km coast-to-coast bike ride across the Pyrenees.
Pat and his wife Nicky share what Pat’s involvement with Raid’17 mean to each of them…
Pat – can you tell us how and why you got involved with Raid’17?
I met Jonathan (‘Jonno’) Thomson at a mutual friend’s golden wedding and he told me about the RAID plans. When I heard that Jonno and Andy Keeling were involved I wanted to be a part of the project as it was a great plan and these two chaps were amongst the most impressive people I met during my 32-year career in the Royal Marines. However, what I meant was getting involved as a helper, say driving the support van or helping out with the logistics. The next thing I knew, Jonno had signed me up as a full member of the team! This came as a bit of a shock so I started to research the project more deeply and was even more shocked by what I was now committed to!
What difference has getting involved with an endeavour like Raid’17 made to your life?
Initially, I thought the challenge to be totally beyond my reach due to my spinal injury. However, as the training has progressed I am beginning to believe in myself more and as I have become stronger and fitter I am beginning to dare to think that I might even be in with a chance. This had had a very positive effect on my own self-esteem and has manifested itself in many aspects of life.
One of the best things about this project is how the team has come together so well under the inspirational leadership of Jonno. This happened in March this year on the Portugal training week. A strong bond soon developed amongst all the riders; all are from the military and all have some serious issues to deal with, whether physical or mental. We are all in it together and we know we will support each other when the going gets tough – as it most certainly will. This mutual support is replicated in our ‘virtual community’ where we can see how other riders are progressing with their training on Strava.
How has the support of your family helped you?
Enormously! My wife, Nicky, has seen a change in me since I started training for this event which is leading to a far healthier lifestyle – both physically and mentally. Her background as a doctor and exercise specialist has led her to become my trainer so we have both become involved with the project. Unusually, I have actually started listening to her advice (!) and my training would have been far less structured without her input and my commitment might have waned without her support.
So, this is very much a joint effort and that in turn has been good for the pair of us. What is more, she is also preparing for a cycling event, a holiday in Burma, so we have actually been training together. The next question will be how to look at life after Raid’17!
Nicky – what difference have you noticed in Pat since he’s gotten involved with Raid’17?
The loss of a huge part of his physical capabilities – strength, agility and balance in particular – honed through years of training with the Royal Marines, had an enormous impact on Pat. This was not just a physical issue though – the mental side of his situation has probably been harder. The grieving for this ‘loss’ was managed incredibly well by Pat – he has never been one to dwell on self-pity, he is very much a ‘just deal with it and get on with life’ sort of chap. He is always aware that his situation could have been much, much worse and he actually feels very lucky in many ways. However, the frustration he feels when his body just won’t do what he wants, has never left him – especially when he sees others doing what he used to be able to do. Rightly or wrongly, part of his personality is to tend to measure his self-worth through tough physical acts. So, having lost the ability to perform such feats, he has struggled to find other ways of feeling good about himself. When you don’t feel good about yourself, it is hard to stay cheerful and positive. While Pat’s physical loss doesn’t really affect me, his frustration does – and I often feel useless in helping him deal with this.
Raid’17 has tackled Pat’s frustration like nothing, or no-one, has been able to before. The confidence that Jonathan has in Pat, gave Pat the confidence in himself to step up to the Challenge, one that he would never have thought possible to even contemplate tackling. The constant and amazing support from Jonathan and the other members of the team has kept Pat going through all the arduous training. The camaraderie with his fellow team members now is as precious to him as any when he was serving in the Royal Marines. Being accepted as part of this very special team has boosted his confidence. Seeing others going through the same frustrations as him and seeing how they deal with their own challenges has been a humbling experience but a hugely positive one.
As Pat has got stronger and with his fitness on the bike improving week by week, his frustration with himself and his body is noticeably diminishing. His pride and increased feeling self-worth in what he has already achieved through the training is palpable. Thank you Jonathan, thank you the team and thank you Raid ’17 – I wish every wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women could get involved with endeavours like Raid’17.
And how has Pat’s involvement in Raid’17 had an impact on your and family life?
Pat’s involvement in RAID has had a very positive impact on our life together. Sharing the training has given us so many special times together – sharing the pain but also sharing all the cake afterwards!
For more information visit http://www.65degreesnorth.co.uk/raid-17/