Invictus Medallist and Veteran, Mark Bowra Completes Bowra 1000 Challenge, supported by AECC University College

Staff at AECC University College are delighted to have been able to help decorated Special Boat Service veteran and stroke survivor, Mark Bowra MBE complete an epic challenge from his garage during the recent lockdown period.

Mark, who has recovered from a severe stroke, planned to cycle e-assisted Ice Trikes over 1,000 miles from John O’Groats to Lands’ End, climbing the Three Peaks and Pen Y Fan; paddling Loch Awe; and swimming and paddling Lake Windermere and Lake Bala. Keen to successfully achieve his goal, he has been training for two years, working with staff and students at AECC University College’s Chiropractic Clinic, under Clinic Director Dr Neil Osborne and Performance Coach and former Royal Marine member of the Special Boat Service, Bernie Shrosbree.

Upon learning that Mark’s challenge would most likely have to be postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions, Neil quickly worked with the team at AECC University College to organise delivery of a treadmill, spin bike and rowing machine to Mark’s garage.

We’re pleased to announce that Mark has now completed the impressive 1000-mile challenge. Setting off on 3 June, day by day, mile by mile he conquered the distance using the static equipment provided for him - as well as completing the final miles outdoors, finally crossing the finish line at Lands’ End on Saturday 11 July.

Neil proudly tells Mark’s inspirational story…

“Mark Bowra is not just a man; he is a force to be reckoned with. He’s a former Special Boat Service Officer, who in the peak of physical fitness, suffered a devastating stroke, which nearly took his life. But as he shows us today, it’s what’s inside that matters.

“Mark’s determination to achieve his goal of completing this mammoth challenge could and should have inspired a nation. Unwilling to give up the dream, Mark asked us to arrange for the loan of some exercise equipment to his garage - forever after to be known as the Bowra Bunker.”

Completing the 1000-mile challenge

“On the day that the Bowra 1000 Challenge should have begun in John O’Groats, Mark began the challenge in the Bunker with the encouragement of his wife, Iona, and former SBS colleague, Stuart Hitchman, who undertook every step of the challenge with him.

"He cycled and hiked the distance in his bunker, and as restrictions began to ease, in the New Forest, the Purbeck Hills and on the roads and trails around Poole Harbour, as well as kayaking in local waters. As lockdown continued to lift, Mark and his team decided to finish the route as planned. He kayaked across Plymouth Sound and finished his challenge on 11th July on his recumbent trike at Land’s End, accompanied by a number of athletes living with neurological disorders, members of the Armed Forces Community including injured veterans and the Commandant General of the Royal Marines.

The team crossed the line in pelotons of six and were met by their families and trustees of the Bowra Foundation, who had travelled from Dorset to honour their incredible efforts.

"Whilst this was not the challenge that Mark had envisaged at its inception, he has cycled, hiked and kayaked every mile, and, where possible he has been accompanied by similarly driven brain injury survivors. He was accompanied by Mark Webber of F1 Fame, former colleague-turned-broadcaster, Jason Fox and explorer, Monty Halls, during various parts of the challenge. He also had a letter of support from David Beckham. All of these supporters recognised the determination and dedication that Mark has put into this endeavour."

Treatment at AECC University College

“Mark has been receiving intensive treatment and training assistance towards this goal with us at the AECC University College Clinic for the past two years, following a plan of functional rehabilitation supervised by myself and high-performance coach and fellow SBS veteran, Bernie Shrosbree. I also asked my sister-in-law, Ruth Osborne, a neuro-physiotherapist, of Shoreline Physiotherapy in Cornwall, with a special interest in helping para-athletes recover their full potential to consult for us, and two of our senior clinical students have been instrumental in doing the bulk of the work with Mark under this team’s supervision – and a great deal of recognition should go to Liam Bowater and Ben Gibbs from the last two graduating years. Everyone in Team Bowra has been immensely grateful and we’ve been pleased to have been able to help.”

Mark’s quest to help others

“On recovering from his stroke, Mark was determined to return to a normal life and the level of fitness to which he has always aspired. He’s embarked upon his incredible journey to recovery and has now made it his goal to help his fellow brain injury sufferers. ‘The Bowra Bag’, for example, is a bag full of everything which he discovered on his long road to recovery. His hope is that everybody who suffers such an injury will be given a ‘Bowra Bag’ as they leave hospital, hoping that some of the contents may make a fundamental difference to the quality of their lives and rehabilitation.

“In true Royal Marine style, Mark didn’t decide to train towards the seemingly impossible goal for himself. The ethos for this was not just to prove his own fitness but to encourage any other victim of stroke or other debilitating illness to walk or cycle or climb or paddle with him, whether that be 1000 feet, a 1000-yards or 100 miles – hence its title, the #Bowra1000 challenge.

“Mark’s determination and tenacity has been utterly inspirational. I suspect that this will not be the last you hear of Mark Bowra and the Bowra Bag, into which he has put so much thought: after all, it’s what’s inside that matters.”

You can read more about the Bowra Foundation here: bowra-foundation.org