Mark Harding Q+A
WWTW Supporter, Mark Harding was paralyzed from the neck down whilst serving in the Armed Forces in Afghanistan. Through years of rehabilitation and medical support, he learnt to walk again, and in 2021, Mark took on WWTW’s Cumbrian Challenge, tackling the Peak route.
Mark has signed up again to take on the Cumbrian Challenge 2022. In our latest blog, we find out more about his time in the Armed Forces, why he’s supporting WWTW and why he is returning to the Lake District in May this year.
Can you please tell us a bit about your military service and your injury?
As Lance Corporal I served with 1st Battalion Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment for 16 years, mostly as a sniper with the Reconnaissance platoon.
This service included operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, Northern Ireland, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
In 2010, I was deployed on operations to the Nadi- Ali district of Afghanistan. It was my 16th year of service in the British Army.
The area was a well-known trouble spot that was notorious for heavy sniper fire. On 28th May 2010 our four-man patrol was sent from the platoon base to investigate an Improvised Explosive Device at 41 West, Qudrat. Whilst out on a routine patrol, my platoon came under insurgent fire and I was shot by a Taliban sniper, I looked down and saw that the left-hand side of my body armour was covered in blood, I then blacked out’.
Upon evacuation to Camp Bastion, it was discovered that the sniper bullet had passed through my neck, leaving me paralysed from the neck down and with severe injuries to the spinal cord. I returned to Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham and was placed in an induced coma for six days and it took another 6 weeks to be stabilised from the extreme pain that I was suffering from.
To assist with my recovery, I was then moved to another hospital for 7 months. At this point I was told by consultants and doctors that I may never walk again. I realised the extent of my injuries and was completely devastated but was determined to learn to walk again.
I spent 2.5 years at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre, Headley Court undergoing physiotherapy and ultimately, I became more mobile. My rehabilitation and recovery have been long, painful and challenging but I was so determined to get better and through sheer hard work and great medical support, I defied medical expectations.
I can now walk again, but with difficulty. There is a saying that’s stuck in my head, ‘Walking with the broken speaks louder than running with the great.’
Why are you supporting Walking With The Wounded?
I had always wanted to try the Cumbrian Challenge. It looked like a fantastic event that helped to raise money for great cause.
I also love the fact Walking With The Wounded supports veteran mental health and through events like the Cumbrian Challenge, the Charity also supports the idea that fitness is a foundation that you can build on.
How did it feel to cross the finish line at the Cumbrian Challenge last year?
Crossing the finish line felt amazing! It felt even better when I helped someone who was struggling at the start who was going call it a day. I stopped and talked to her and told her just to walk with me and gave her belief that she could complete the Cumbrian challenge.
Crossing the finish line with the team felt fantastic, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
What inspired you to return to the hills this year?
I am returning this year to get my team back together. The Cumbrian Challenge is a brilliant team building event, it’s all about the people to your left and right.
Moreover, everyone who takes part in the event is there to raise money to support veterans and their families and ultimately to support a great cause -Walking With The Wounded.
What advice would you give anyone who is thinking about signing up to take part?
That’s easy. Don’t hesitate in signing-up. Everyone who takes part in the Cumbrian Challenge is so friendly and very helpful. If you’re struggling out on the hills people around, you will support you to complete the challenge and cross the finish line.
I can’t wait to go back this year and I can’t wait to see you there!