Resilience: The Ultimate Endurance Test
In the month we recognise Mental Health Awareness Week, Emma Brereton talks to Darren Hardy – veteran, world record holder, Warrior Games double gold medallist, motivational speaker and Ribble Cycles’ Ultra Endurance Athlete
In 2017 veteran Darren Hardy was medically discharged from the forces after suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – a mental illness so synonymous with those who have served our country, it’s easy to forget that when soldiers return to their family and loved ones, settling back into normal routine is not always straight forward.
As part of his recovery, Darren has used the last five years to retrain his brain and challenge his body to the maximum. He has also made it his duty to help others and raise awareness of men’s mental health issues.
According to mentalhealth.org.uk in England, around one in eight men has a common mental health problem such as depression, anxiety, panic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Furthermore, three times as many men than women die by suicide and men aged 40 to 49 have the highest suicide rates in the UK. Sadly, this is largely down to negative stigmas associated with mental health with only 36 per cent of NHS referrals for talking therapies are for men.
Knowing how difficult it is for men to open up and talk candidly about feelings and experiences, Darren now uses extreme endurance events to help raise awareness of men’s mental health and talks openly about his own suffering to get other men to communicate better.
Darren said: “There is very much a feeling of ‘stiff upper lip’ in the military and the male psyche also leans towards wanting to be the bread winner of the family, ultimately failing to recognise when they may need help.
“For me I had to retrain the thoughts in my head. I needed to challenge myself so I became fitter, stronger and fuelled my body with what it needed and not what it thought it wanted.”
Darren has undertaken some epic endurance races to keep up the momentum, such as the 10X 10X 10 Ironman which is 10 Ironmans over 10 days in 10 locations. It required him to swim 2.4 miles, cycle 112 miles and run 26.2 miles every single day and he did all of this for Help the Heroes.
He is able to do such astounding events thanks to his partnership with Ribble Cycles who take good care of every athlete they work with.
“When I first looked into getting help for PTSD, I did it through the military and doing this Ironman for Help the Heroes allowed me to give something back. At the time of my first event, I didn’t even have a bike and it’s thanks to Ribble Cycles that I am well cared for every time I decide to undertake a new, risky challenge. They’re on my side and support my cause 100 per cent.
“Doing these events for charitable causes also helps me to stay focused. Knowing that I am helping someone else keeps me positive and with a strong mindset.”
There’s no doubt that Darren’s challenges are so exciting they easily grab the headlines and that’s a great platform to get people talking about the reasons behind his events, but his motivational speaking has just as much an impact on those who are lucky enough to be in his company.
Darren continued: “Not everyone is going to sign up for their next local triathlon to make them feel better. It’s about making small changes and finding little things that can help with your daily mindset to allow you to take hold of the day that lies ahead. One of the first things I recommend to most people is to go to bed an hour earlier and get up an hour earlier.
“Use that hour in the morning for yourself and go for a walk, a bike ride, do some meditation or yoga. Whatever you do, be in the moment. Doing this will start the day positively to help you tackle whatever comes your way.”
Darren also explains what you can do to help if you feel that someone you know may be going through a difficult time.
“Everyone asks as routine if you’re okay and generally, even if you aren’t, you will say you’re fine. If you feel someone you are close to is having a hard time, get them out of the house, offer to go for a brew – it’s amazing how much people will open up over a cup of tea and even if you haven’t tackled the problem that’s troubling them, it’s likely you’ve made them feel less alone.”
Darren is currently working towards his next daredevil challenge – a triathlon in the Arctic circle.
He said: “I am in the process of working out the funding and logistics for this event but I am very much looking forward to testing myself in the most severe conditions on the planet. If all goes to plan it will take place between September 2022 and March 2023, so watch this space.”
For more information and to keep up to date with Darren’s latest challenges follow him on social media