The man who was told he would never run again… and did

After a horrific accident David Pickles was told he would never run again, but he defied all odds and conquered Mt Kilimanjaro


David Pickles is ex-military, he’s always been an active guy and even does group leading up Mt. Kilimanjaro. In February 2013 he fell 35 feet and was told he would never run again. At the end of 2014, he had run 30 races in 12 months and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro again. This is the story of David Pickles, so far…

Being an ex-military, requires you to walk plenty, carry heavy loads and be a generally fit guy. David had also reached the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro a staggering 46 times.

In 2006 however, he had to undergo a serious back operation. This unfortunately led to a huge relapse. In February 2013, David fell 35 feet out of a tree, he was extremely lucky to have not broken his back.

David says: “I was told I would never be able to run again and I’d be in chronic pain for the rest of my life, which would have to be managed by strong prescription drugs”

The doctors stated that David would have to be in traction for three months. This would have immobilised him laying down, slowly turning him onto his front and back.

The idea of this is to increase the chances of repair in critical places of injury within the back. Much like how a cast works on an arm, keeping you very still. After this, David was told he would require surgery.

For someone who loves getting out and about and being on his own two feet, this was devastating: “Mentally I was crumpling, it was a huge shock the system.

“Initially I was scared, I was stressed. After a while, I started to get fairly frustrated as well”

After a tough day or a rough period in life, most of us can take it out in the gym or on a 5K run, this was a massively tough time for David, and he couldn’t even do what he loved most.

Determined to not go into traction, David spoke to a sports rehabilitation physiotherapist. After explaining his story, the physiotherapist said the outlook wasn’t too hopeful, but that he would give it a shot.

After two months of working very hard, David incredibly went from not being able to move at all to shuffling around.

David revealed what kept him going during those dark times: “I’ve got now a four year old daughter, and I wanted to be the best I could be in order to inspire her, to show her and teach her that no matter what happens in life, no matter how hard you get knocked, you learn how to respond and get back on it again”

David hugely credits his recovery to his mental strength and doubts that anything is possible without it.

He then decided it was time to start setting some long, middle and short term goals. One of these was to get off his prescription drugs, slowly stop the pain and then eventually get running.

Having a sports science background in education and herbal medicine diploma, David turned to herbal supplements.

He started using Naturally Inspired Products by Forever Living, specifically Forever Freedom Gel and ARGI +. They’re essentially aloe vera based supplements.

After two months of hard work, with the help of his physiotherapist and the intake of natural remedies, one morning something changed: “It normally took me an hour and a half to get out of bed, but I got up with relatively no pain and my wife who was with me ended up taking the day off of work. We didn’t understand what was going on.

“Within 20 minutes I was out of the bed, walking slowly down the stairs and I thought ‘flippin heck’ I’ve turned a corner”

Buoyed by this belief, he immediately then set himself the goal of completing a sprint triathlon in six weeks.

This may seem an absurdly short amount of time, but David said: “I strongly believe that, in terms of setting personal goals, if we err on the side of caution, there’s no point setting goals.IMG_2831

“If I set a challenging goal, at least I can work towards it and we’ll see how I get on”

Day on day David’s mindset got stronger and each day David’s pain faded more and more.

After two weeks his pain had fully gone.

At week four, David started his training and at the six week point he completed the triathlon, finishing a miraculous 24th.

Before the end of 2013 was up he wanted to set himself a few more goals to keep going. David did both a trail half marathon carrying 62lbs on his back and a 10,000 set challenge.

The 10,000 set challenge consisted of 10 types of exercise, 100 sets every three minutes continuously for 6 hours; (press up, half sit up, knee up, squat, lunge, tricep dip, crunch, squat thrust, burpees.).

That rounded off what was to be an up and down 2013 for David.

The year of 2014 didn’t see a stop to his goals, with the confidence he got from 2013  David completed 30 races in 12 months. The races which averaged out to be around two to three a month were a mix of triathlons both olympic and sprint distance, ultra marathons and weight carrying marathons. He even came first in a 10K speed race.

He did all of this as well as taking another group up Mount Kilimanjaro, reaching his 46th landmark.

David believes he has his ‘tool bag’ to thank for his enduring success: “These are all the tools that I contain in my tool bag, and they are: a good diet, sleep, water, exercise, supplements, the right professional help, hard work, positive mind set, and never give up”

He then combines these elements with two self-made mantras which he developed right at the start of his recovery process: “They are ‘dream, plan, do, review and never give up’ and the second one is ‘go as far as you can, and then go a little further’

He went on to say: “Whatever I do, in my training, my races or my post-event recovery I always employ those two, combined with amy tool bag”

When asked how he felt after accomplishing so much after being told he would never run again, he said: “It makes me feel content, it makes me feel very secure that anything is possible as long as the right tools are put in place”

So what are his big plans for 2015? As well as his yearly trips up and down Mt. Kilimanjaro, David has written to the Guinness book of records to attempt 14 olympic distance triathletes in 14 days in July. This would be a new entry in the book as far as he is aware, but is still waiting for a reply from the record keepers.

In September David will also be participating in the Run/Swim championships in Sweden. It comprises of swimming to 20 islands and running over each of them. It adds up to a 20K swim and a 60K run, whilst carrying everything you need.

So if you ever feel like giving up, or you’re going through a tough recovery process, remember David Pickles, the man who was told he would never run again.

Tom Bristow

Written by Tom Bristow | 118 articles | View profile

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