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"Improvise, adapt, and overcome" - This is Peter's story..


Prior to his injury, Peter Watts was an avid mountain biker and cyclist, competing in numerous mountain bike marathon events and 100 mile Road sportives. But Peter didn’t let his injury stop him from doing things he wanted to do and achieve

In January 2022, Peter’s life changed in an instant when a disc in his back burst and crushed his spinal cord as he bent over to pick up a pair of shoes. He was rushed off to hospital and diagnosed with a very rare condition called Cauda equina syndrome. He was left with reduced mobility, reduced sensation and chronic pain.

Peter went on to celebrate some incredible achievements in 2022. He learnt to walk again and was recovering really quickly. He conquered Snowdon and completed a marathon with a walking stick, defying the odds at every step.

A common occurrence with spinal injuries is recovering quickly and then regressing. Despite his initial progress, Peter’s recovery regressed and he began suffering even more pain. Simple tasks such as walking short distances became excruciating, forcing him into a wheelchair.

Peter entered the Superhero Triathlon, held at Dorney Lake, as part of the spinal injuries association. Here is where he developed a taste for triathlon. He suddenly realised that if he could get himself a hand bike and a track wheel for the front of his wheelchair, this could be his new thing. Sure enough, he did the Chester Duathlon which was a swim and a run. Then he completed Shropshire Triathlon. The swim got cancelled at this event so he ended up doing a run, a ride and another run. This was Peter’s third time on the hand bike, his first time doing anything of any distance.

He said, “It was super tough. There was one point where there was a hill so steep that people were getting off their bikes to push and obviously I didn’t have that option. You can’t get off and push a hand bike if you can’t walk properly. But I got round and I really enjoyed it.”

Peter treated Always Aim High’s Llandudno Triathlon as the ultimate challenge due to the ride section. He commended this event massively, exclaiming how from start to finish he was looked after so well.

He said, “I was supported brilliantly. My real message to anyone who feels like they need to achieve something is that you don’t have to enter a disability specific event. You can enter any of these events and you will be looked after. You will have an amazing time and everyone will encourage you”

“They were just brilliant the way they looked after me. There were no problems whatsoever. To be honest, I felt like a VIP because everyone was looking after me, even the other competitors. It felt amazing. It empowered me.”

During the race, Pete thoroughly enjoyed his first sea swim. He explained that the ride was something else, getting round the Great Orme was a real challenge. And the run at the end was relatively easy, up and down. Completing Llandudno Triathlon was a huge achievement for him.

Alongside his physical feats, Peter found inspiration in others who refused to be defined by their circumstances: Martin Hibbert and Lizzie Tench. In 2022, Manchester Arena bomb survivor, Martin climbed Kilimanjaro in his wheelchair and the BBC did a series of programmes on his journey. Peter featured twice.

Watch Peter as he speaks more on his inspiration Martin on BBC Breakfast here.

Peter’s other inspiration, Lizzie Tench, is a former GB triathlete. She competed in the Commonwealth Games, was a UK champion 4 times and a European champion. Peter literally bumped into Lizzie on his hand bike in Manchester. They started talking and became friends. Now, sometimes they go out on their hand bikes together.

Throughout his journey, Peter’s motto remained steadfast: “believe in yourself” and “improvise, adapt, and overcome.” His unwavering resolve and determination is inspiring.


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