When you want to push yourself, what do you choose? Perhaps finishing that task that’s hanging over you, or smashing your personal best. Running the marathon is another common option. For Rob Bugden, that wasn’t enough - he’s taking on five half marathons over six months to raise money for five charities, all in a custom wheelchair.
Rob was always active - as a long distance runner and as physical trainer and parachute jump trainer for the RAF - but in 2016 he suffered an injury during a jump that broke his neck. Not one to give up easily, Rob pushed himself to recover and now lives independently in South Wales. He’s now doing the 5 for 5 challenge - 5 half marathons, for 5 charities, by a C5 tetraplegic.
He’s taking part in the Great Welsh Half Marathon (2nd April), The Great West Run (21st May), Swansea Half Marathon (11th June), Wales Half Marathon (2nd July) and, finally, the Cardiff Half Marathon (1st October).
The charities he’s raising money for are Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, Defence and Medical Rehabilitation Centre Benevolent Fund, Cakes for Casualties, OppO Foundation, and Tough Enough To Care and we’ll have more details about them further down.
We’ve known Rob for a while now, as he uses our technology to help in his daily life to manage pain and swelling in his feet and legs, and caught up with him to hear more about 5 for 5 and his training.
If you’d like to donate to Rob’s efforts or find out more, you can do so at the 5 for 5 website and the link will also be at the end of the article.
Rob used to be a parachute jump instructor for the RAF.
Thanks for talking to us Rob. So where did the idea for 5 for 5 come from?
It's called 5 for 5 because it's five half marathons, for five charities, my target is £5,000, and I’m a C5 tetraplegic. Basically, it started as I was sat in my living room last autumn, and I was saying, well, what, you know, what am I gonna do? I would like to challenge myself next year. So I thought, well, I've done half marathons, both before I was injured and since I've been injured as well. So why not do more than one? The charities I have chosen are all really, really personal to me as well and I viewed it as my sort of chance to give back to some of the amazing people that have helped me.
You’re taking on five half marathons, how did you choose which ones to do?
Simple. So, I knew I wanted to finish in Cardiff because it’s the first half marathon I ran, back in 2011, and I was actually fifth in the race that day. I don't think I'm gonna be fifth this time around! So then it was a case of, you know, what other half marathons I wanted to do. I wanted to stay reasonably local, being based in South Wales, to not have to travel too far, but I wanted to do one in the South West, which is where I'm originally from, hence Wyre Jones Exeter (The Great West Run). The first one in Pembrey Country Park on the 2nd April was simply because Pembrey Country Park is one of my favorite places and I love it. And then I selected Swansea, as again, the course begins not too far away. And the one in Pembroke and Tenby (Wales Half Marathon) is the same weekend as the Ironman Triathlon and the marathon because I've always wanted to go and compete in the long course weekend.
Are you looking forward to any of them in particular?
I am - at the minute I'm looking forward to the first one! But no, I'm absolutely looking forward to all five to be honest. I'm lucky that I've got, you know, four or five friends coming around each one and that to sort of help me through should I need it and it’s gonna be a really nice way of spending some Sundays over the next five, six months. And finishing in Cardiff, it’s one of the biggest races in the world. The atmosphere there is gonna be electric. I can't wait to experience it cause it takes me back to sort of my old life. So the experiences are gonna be amazing.
Will Denzel [his dog] be going with you?
I think Denzel will be coming to watch a couple, but I think he might cause too much carnage at feeding stations and stuff like that, but he'll certainly be there as a supporter!
Denzel is one of Rob’s most enthusiastic supporters.
Could you talk us through your training and what you’ve been doing to prepare?
So I’m in physio three times a week, and the idea at the moment is to get time on my shoulders. I really don't care how quick I am, but because I'm all shoulders and biceps due to my injury it's just about trying to build up the tolerance. So whether that's in the pool, whether it's out pushing around with Denzel or on the ski machine, that’s the goal. I'm relatively confident I've got the strength, it's just developing the endurance. and just going out there and just hanging on for dear life. I know the last few miles may be slightly painful!
How much of it do you find is mental strength vs physical strength?
Probably, I would say 60% mental to be honest. I think people would probably attest that I'm quite a stubborn bastard, really, and I think that will serve me quite well in terms of how I approach the challenge.
You’ve been using NuroKor Lifetech for a while now, but how has it been fitting in with your training?
Honestly, it is possibly one of the best recovery tools. I was focused on using the KorShoe on my feet for a while because for a man that can't walk, you wouldn't believe the amount of problems my feet give me: swelling and things like that. But more all over at the moment. On the shoulders, it's just helping in terms of recovery and also possibly is my best tool in terms of pain management - it has been a game changer really. Just allowing me to sort of be more comfortable, which is the name of the game after a spinal cord injury operation.
I normally use it for 40 minutes a day with the mitouch. I know that if I have had a particularly hard day or something like that, I know that the settings need to be higher. But if it's just sort of maintenance, you know, I take it right down. Generally, I like to feel it, so I play it by ear to see what I need.
Is there anything in particular that you’d like to say about the charities you’re raising money for?
All five have had a profound impact on my life, since my accident in January 2016. And they're not just there for just the short-term, they’re there for life. I'm sure so many other people are forever grateful to all of them for all the amazing work they’ve done in the past, do in the present, and they will continue to do in the future.
I know it's such a tough time for everybody at the moment, but every penny raised will go directly to them and will make such a difference to so many people. I know the charities are exceptionally grateful, but, moreover, the beneficiaries of those charities are incredibly grateful. So everybody that's donated, it's just a massive thank you.
Thanks for your time, Rob!
We wish Rob luck for this amazing challenge that he’s taking on, and we’re sure that he’ll finish with style! Here’s a brief look at the five fantastic charities he’s raising money for.
The charities Rob is fundraising for provide support during rehabilitation and after.
The RAF Benevolent Fund has supported current and former RAF members and their families for more than 100 years, providing them with emotional, practical and financial support. Rob is one of their ambassadors and they have made an immeasurable difference to his life, having bought his house and adapted it for him so that he can live independently.
A volunteer-run charity, the DMRC Benevolent Fund helps injured service personnel at DMRC Stanford Hall with holistic, occupational, and social integration opportunities. These might include taking people to a rugby game or to a restaurant, helping not only to do something different but to begin reintegrating into society and, in Rob’s words, learning to live again.
Another charity that is close to Rob’s heart, Cakes for Casualties is run by Kath The Cake Lady, who visits Birmingham Hospitals (every week) and Stanford Hall (every month) to bring cakes to, and spend time with, wounded soldiers. Kath is entirely self-funded, and her presence, time, and baking have made a profound effect on Rob and others - Rob’s favourites are probably her chocolate brownies and peanut butter cookies.
Founded by ex-serviceman, Kayam Iqbal, The OppO Foundation provides support for military personnel returning to civilian life, as well as promoting veterans in sport. They have donated a customised wheelchair worth £7000 for Rob to use in the half marathons and have recently put together a team of veterans to travel to Turkey and assist in the aftermath of the earthquake.
Tough Enough To Care encourages men to look after their mental health and raise awareness of the issue. Started by a former RAF serviceman, Stuart Bratt, they offer support lines as well as guidance on spotting signs of mental health problems in others, and run support groups for men and women.
You can learn more about Rob in the video below.