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Shropshire man fights back from broken back and collapsed lung for Ironman challenge

By Lucy Todman | Shrewsbury | News | Published:

A Shropshire man who broke his back has traded his mountain bike for two feet and has just competed in an Ironman competition.

Ben Llewellyn broke his back in a potentially life-changing accident in 2017.

He suffered serious injuries when he crashed on the hillside near his home at White Grit, near Bishops Castle, when out fine tuning his mountain bike for the fifth round of the Enduro World Series in France.

During his final practise run at 9.30pm, he made a mistake on a jump which blew out the bike’s rear tyre and he flew over the handlebar.

“Instantly I knew there was something wrong as I couldn’t breathe, I had a lack of sensation in my left leg and spasms in my right,” said Ben, 34.

Ben Llewelyn, right, with his personal trainer Jamie Lambie at Love2Live in Shrewsbury

He had fractured four vertebrae in his spine, broken most of his ribs and had a collapsed right lung.

The rescue operation took more than eight hours, as Brecon Mountain Rescue Team carefully carried him down the hillside to a waiting Maritime and Coastguard Agency helicopter which flew him to the major trauma unit at Salford Royal Hospital.

Doctors discussed inserting a metal rod to stabilise his spine and fusing the broken vertebrae, but Ben opted to be put in a body brace instead.

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Amazingly, he was discharged from hospital after just eight days and was released from the body brace after three months, when initially he was told it could take up to a year. Following treatment at Salford, he was transferred to the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital, in Gobowen.

Fitness regime

He was back on his mountain bike by the end of 2017 and competing again last year, but found that, psychologically since the accident, he had lost his competitive edge. That’s where personal trainer Jamie Lambie and physiotherapist Aaron Lambley at Love2Live at Salop Leisure in Shrewsbury have helped.

Following an 11-month fitness regime, Ben decided to take on the Ironman Wales triathlon in Tenby on September 15, comprising a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile cycle ride and a 26.22-mile run.

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Some of his best friends doubted he could complete this gruelling event, rated as one of the world’s toughest triathlons, yet he finished in 346th place out of 2,400 triathletes, in 12 hours five minutes and 39 seconds.

He was 56th in the men’s 30-34 years age group and raised £2,550 for Wings for Life Spinal Cord Research Foundation in the process. Anyone wishing to support the fundraising campaign can do so online at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Ben-Llewellyn

“I want to raise money for other people with spinal injuries and to show that it’s possible to get back to fitness if you really apply yourself,” said Ben, a mechanic at Will Llewellyn Motors, Hope Valley.

Bitten by the triathlon bug, he’s eager for more and plans to improve his time next year with the ultimate aim of qualifying for the World Ironman Championship. He also plans to return to national enduro and some select downhill races in in 2020.

Jamie said: “I am unbelievably proud of Ben for his amazing achievement of completing Ironman Wales. His commitment levels are second to none.

“We worked every week for 18 months on his strength to prepare him for the triathlon and I would like to thank Ben for giving me the opportunity to work with someone who is so driven. We share the same hunger for winning and the same mentality to push ourselves to the limit.”

Lucy Todman

By Lucy Todman
@shroptod

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star and Shrewsbury Chronicle based in Shrewsbury.

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