A former soldier who survived a bomb explosion in Afghanistan which left him with a shattered skull is preparing for his toughest sporting challenge yet.
Dean Middleton, from Seaham, has been selected to be part of a Help for Heroes team of wounded, injured and sick veterans and serving personnel that will take on the Enduroman Arch to Arc challenge.
The epic event begins on September 25, and is dubbed the hardest triathlon in the world.
Spanning 300 miles, the triathlon involves an 87 mile run from Marble Arch to Dover and a swim of English Channel. Participants will then cycle 181 miles to Arch de Triomphe in Paris.
The challenge has never been attempted by a disabled team before.
The 30-year-old former Paratrooper has been training for nine months in the hope of winning selection for the challenge. Team members will be raising money for Help for Heroes, which has been pivotal in their recovery.
Help for Heroes will enter four teams for the challenge. Within these teams, which will be announced nearer the event, there will be a performance/elite team, an all-female team and two ‘have a go hero’ teams.
Dean is hoping to be chosen for the elite team.
Training for the event has been rigorous, with some of the training events alone significant.
They have included the Bolton Ironman, Cotswold Classic and 113 events, as well as bespoke open water swim camps in order to prepare for the conditions of the Channel.
“I’m over the moon to be selected and delighted that all the training has paid off,” Dean said. “I’m fitter now than I ever was pre-injury. I had never done a triathlon before, I could not swim before I was blown-up and now I’m swimming the Channel and doing Arch to Arc.
“I cannot believe it –it’s beyond belief,” he said.
Dean’s life ambition had been to be in the Army and eventually push himself to the limit in the SAS.
But everything changed in a split second in a devastating incident on December 21, 2010, which killed his friend and colleague Cpl. Steve Dunn and saw Dean blown from the top of a vehicle after it hit an Improvised Explosive Devise.
His family was warned he may not survive and maintained a vigil at his bedside for four months while he lay in a coma. He suffered traumatic brain injuries as well as a wrist fracture. Now Dean works as a strength and conditioning assistant for Phoenix House Recovery Centre – the Help for Heroes-run Centre in Catterick which helped him on his long and arduous road to recovery.
He said: “I never wanted to leave the Army. It was not a job for money but for pride and having that taken away when you do not want to leave was terrible.
“But now I am doing something worthwhile and giving something back. The training for Arch to Arc has been intense.
“The team is really proving that sport helps soldiers on the road to recovery. It gives everyone so much confidence,” he said.
For those that have been selected, the Arch to Arc ultra-distance triathlon requires relay teams to run 87 miles from Marble Arch London to the Dover coast, to swim across the Channel, and finish with an 181 mile bike from Calais to the Arc de Triomphe, Paris.
The clock starts at Marble Arch, London and stops at Arc de Triomphe, Paris, regardless of weather or delays.
Participants in the team are wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women that are beneficiaries of Help for Heroes, incorporating all abilities, using sport as part of their recovery journey.
- To support the team as they take on this incredible journey visit: www.helpforheroes.org.uk/ArchtoArc
- For more information about how Help for Heroes can support you if you’re wounded, injured or sick, visit: www.helpforheroes.org.uk