Climbing the O2
Tuesday, 12 November 2019
So, after months of training and getting stronger with the support and under supervision of a number of students from Brookes, the 2nd of October arrived - the day of my climb, and fortunately one with plenty of sun and no wind.
Peter Wright took me to London the day before where we stayed in a hotel to make sure that the evening before my climb was well rested and to avoid me having to waste energy the next morning.
In the morning we made our way to North Greenwich, where myself and Peter met up with the twenty-two others that would be completing the climb with me including students Hayley, Ollie and Liz, along with lecturers, Erin and Adam, and other Cancer support Individuals.
Due to the paralysis in my feet I was unable to wear the mandatory walking boots to climb the arena so fortunately managed to get my own pair authorised by the O2.
Once we were in our climbing gear we had a pre-climb safety demonstration. It was all starting to get very exciting.
I was supported with Peter right behind me and an O2 Arena instructor walked next to me all the way - the adrenaline was pumping around my body and I did wonder whether I would be able to complete the climb!
The initial incline was very steep and pulled hard on my ankles and calves. Bearing in mind that my feet are paralysed, this was a massive challenge, but with a huge amount of team spirit and group support we took our time with the climb and continued on up. At times I was out of breath and the intensity of the tightness within my legs was overwhelming but I was determined to get to the top.
I was reflecting throughout the climb on the end of the support given me from the students through the summer - walking up hills, stretching my legs, swimming in the pool - it was all beneficial.
Before I knew it, it seemed as though we were at the top! I was overwhelmed to find myself on the roof of the arena! Me - the man that was told I wouldn’t beat cancer, and who then was told I would never ever leave a wheelchair, on top of the O2 after months of hard work. I was presented with a glass of champagne which I thoroughly enjoyed on the top of the O2 whilst taking in the views of London.
The hard work was about to start again as we still had to get back down to the other side of the arena and I found this harder. The gradient increases as you go rather than the opposite for the climb. By the time we eventually reached the bottom I was shattered.
As my feet reached the ground I was greeted with a round of applause - I felt like a celebrity! People were congratulating me and taking photographs to remind me how well I have done.
I did it. I had climbed to the roof of the O2 arena and back down again - one of my big challenges for my 50th birthday - and it wouldn’t have happened without the support of Oxford Brookes University and the students who dedicated so much of their time to help get me stronger.
A well-earned cup of coffee was enjoyed by all after the climb, along with a sense of huge achievement and also bewilderment of what I’d managed. I was very proud of myself and very thankful to everybody that has supported me and enabled this huge achievement to happen.
So now I’m looking for more challenges and achievements to complete within my 50th year. I’m continuing to connect with Brookes Sport as a Sports Ambassador, and am still involved in further cancer rehab and, wherever possible, help support the students with their knowledge and training within the Sports Science department.
I’m so grateful to everybody that has supported me.