ENDURANCE SPORT HAS SAVED MY LIFE | Darren Hardy
It is not only physical injuries which Hardy is dealing with, either, as he was also discharged due to having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). According to a report by the Ministry of Defence, rates of PTSD ‘were higher in those who had previously deployed to Iraq and/or Afghanistan than those not deployed there. In 2019/20, there was an increased risk of 90% for PTSD for Service personnel previously deployed to Iraq and/or Afghanistan’.
Despite his mental health, Hardy has found coping mechanisms via sport and has gone on to tackle tremendous feats. His gold-medal winning records at the Warrior Games in the 100m and 200m sprint are still yet to be broken.
More recently, Hardy has turned his attention to ultra-adventure sports which are less about the physical demands but perseverance of the mind. A few accomplishments on his roster include the World’s Highest Duathlon at 12,000ft (a 10km run, 150km cycle, then a 30km run), the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra, and running the perimeter of the Isle of Wight (113km) in a single outing to name a few. Minus the training, he totalled an excessive distance of 2983km in 11 months at the time of interview.
If you weren’t already blown away by the incredulity of it all, Hardy revealed to AMG that his method for coming up with these challenges were a ‘commit to it now and refine the details later’ sort of approach. “I say what I’m going to do, and then I work out how to do it” he admitted.
Not only are his endeavours charitable – Hardy raised over £8200 for Great Ormond Street Hospital in February and over £16’000 for Help For Heroes in October – they are attempted to prove a point: “It’s to prove that you can go and put your mind to something and do it”. Having been “in a very bad place” with PTSD, Hardy really needed something to channel his focus into. He found that training in the early hours of the morning before most have stirred set him up for the day ahead: “it’s like my medication being dosed into me by my physical training!”
There are other driving factors which keep Hardy motivated, too. Not only do the addictive highs of pushing his body beyond the comprehensible make Hardy tick, but he enjoys the inspiration his workouts give to others. He also want to give back to the charities which helped him at his lowest, inspiring others who are currently struggling and showing them that something can be done, as long as you are willing to pick yourself up. Hardy is hopeful that if people can see an ex-rugby playing war veteran stand up and discuss mental health, others will be encouraged to do so too.
Hardy is also a father to two young daughters, both of which are his biggest fans alongside his wife. His challenges always have them in mind in the hope that he makes them proud. Hardy half joked that “it’s making them proud for when I’m older and in a wheelchair, which might be pretty soon if I keep going the way I’m going!”
Perhaps the most salient motivator for Hardy is his new-found understanding of failure, brought about by his recent attempt at the 10x10x10 challenge: 10 ironman triathlons in 10 days in 10 different locations. Hardy managed to complete the equivalent of 6.8 ironman triathlons over the 10-day period, with hypothermia, weight loss and various painful niggles preventing him from achieving the distance he originally wanted to achieve. Despite this, he smashed his fundraising target by thousands of pounds and raised awareness for the Help for Heroes charity. “I believe there is no such thing as failure” Hardy explains, “it’s merely a stepping stone to success”.
Upon being asked what he has learned from his challenges, Hardy is keen to emphasise how we should not fear failure, and therefore we should take bigger risks – at the end of the day, failure is the opportunity for “learning and getting better”. It is very much mind over matter for Hardy, as he plans to complete a 48-hour tyre flip at Thruxton circuit in the new year, and hopes to complete both an Arctic Ironman and a double veteran ironman in the near future. He is also keen to reattempt the 10x10x10 challenge, however he now understands why triathlons are more regularly held in summer opposed to the cold and wet month of October. With a bit of training and mental discipline, Hardy is certain that anything is achievable.