Joshua Patterson on achieving the World Record from John O’Groats to Land’s End by wheelchair
Joshua Patterson has successfully set the new world record of travelling from John O’Groats to Land’s End by wheelchair. He took on the challenge after his best friend, Ben Tansley was involved in a motorbike accident that left him without the use of his legs. We sat done with Joshua to talk about the challenge and its mental and physical toll, as well as his past struggles with body image and anxiety.
HUGE CONGRATULATIONS ON WHAT YOU HAVE ACHIEVED, IT’S ABSOLUTELY PHENOMENAL. YOU MUST BE REALLY PROUD OF YOURSELF.
Thank you! You know, I’m massively proud of the whole team. There were four guys with me, and what they did for me has been just incredible. It was a very special experience.
CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT WHY YOU WANTED TO TAKE ON THE CHALLENGE?
The main inspiration behind using the wheelchair came down to my best friend, Ben Tansley, having a motorbike accident just over two years ago. He came to meet my daughter India for the first time, and on his way home, a motorbike went into the back of him and now he’s paralysed from the chest down. He’s so committed to proving the odds wrong and walking again and showing as many people as possible what his capabilities are, and how fulfilled life can be.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNT FROM THE EXPERIENCE?
I think acceptance is one of the key ones. We faced a lot of adversity before this challenge. I think people found it quite controversial, an able-bodied person being in a wheelchair, without really understanding the fundamentals behind it. I think a lot of those individuals who criticised have now actually become supporters as well.
DID YOU FIND THIS CHALLENGE HARDER THAN YOU EXPECTED, BOTH MENTALLY AND PHYSICALLY?
Oh my god, yeah. I don’t want people to see these challenges and find themselves detached. I truly believe that anyone can do any of these things and to believe in themselves. But don’t get me wrong, it was horrendous mentally and physically. I think having the right team beside me is one of the ultimate reasons why I finished it. My anxiety was really, really bad, and I think I was burning about 6000+ calories a day, and only consuming about 1,800. It just proves that if you believe in yourself enough, you will get to that finish line.
THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS MUST HAVE BEEN FULL OF HIGHS AND LOWS FOR YOU. HOW HAVE YOU KEPT A TRACK OF YOUR MENTAL HEALTH?
In the space of a year, I became a father, my business went bankrupt, my relationship ended with the person that I loved, and then my best friend had his accident. It was one of the lowest years of my life, and yet I was still able to go and do a marathon in a wheelchair. It wasn’t exactly the most convenient thing to take upon myself. There were plenty of times when I called up the coordinator, saying I didn’t know if I could do it. The fact that I’ve come out of this, and done it when my mind was so weak, I can’t wait to share it with so many people.
THERE IS SO MUCH EVIDENCE THAT MEN STRUGGLE TO TALK ABOUT THEIR MENTAL HEALTH. IT MUST BE REALLY IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO SHARE YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES.
Sadly, I think a lot of people lose faith in people in the industry that I’m in. I’m just so committed, and my passion is people. I love connecting with people, I love helping them through their troubled times. I’m very lucky, I’ve had a very good life, I’m very grateful for what I’ve had, and while I have this platform, and an opportunity to try to help guide people and hopefully prevent them from going through what I have. That for me is the ultimate fulfilment.
HOW DID YOU PHYSICALLY PREPARE FOR THE CHALLENGE?
I’m very lucky, I had a very good team around me. I had Lindsay and Tom at a local F45 who helped me with my sports therapy and my nutrition. I was also going down to the Weir Archer Academy twice a week, to train with kids as young as eight years old who were teaching me how to go round a track in the wheelchair which was so special. I would go to Richmond Park everyday and just sit in that chair to build up my body so that it was used to being in that position 12 to 14 hours a day.
IT MUST HAVE REALLY TAKEN ITS TOLL ON YOUR BODY. WHAT WAS YOUR RECOVERY LIKE?
Sometimes when you come back from these challenges, you try and throw yourself back into the real world, and carry on as normal, and you really need to give yourself 2-4 weeks to rest. I’ve had some sports therapy just because my back was pretty badly damaged and it sounds very simple, but I’ve just been using Epsom bath salts, drinking a lot of water and just trying to eat well again.
THIS YEAR’S MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK THEME WAS ‘BODY IMAGE’. HAVE YOU EVER STRUGGLED WITH YOUR BODY IMAGE?
Yeah, 100% – you know, I think this is something that I’m gonna organise public talks about. There is a huge problem right now with men and their body image. I’ve had friends who have come back from nights out, and they’ve got dumbbells waiting on the front lawn at two in the morning. I’ve had friends eating from Tupperware at weddings. It’s horrendous.
I’ve come away from this challenge, I’ve lost half a stone, my legs and my frame are really skinny, I physically don’t feel strong, but I know mentally I am – and that makes me happier than I’ve ever been before. I know that I can do 900 miles in a wheelchair, so actually, whether I look good or I don’t, I know I’m capable of doing it, and for me, that is a quality that I want everyone to try and adopt.
HOW DO YOU PERSONALLY FIND BALANCE IN YOUR DAY-TO-DAY LIFE?
The biggest thing for me right now is when you go and train, do you train to feel good or look good? Because if you train to feel good, you’ll always be happy. If you train to look good, I’m sorry to tell you this, and it comes from personal experience and a lot of friends who do fitness modelling – you’re never gonna find contentment, you’ll always find flaws. I don’t wanna pee off the fitness modelling world, but there’s got to be more to life than trying to look good.
DO YOU HAVE ANY MORE CHALLENGE COMING UP?
Yes, in September, my next challenge is being announced. It’s going to be with Tano, which is really exciting, and we’re going to China. He really wants to do Heaven’s Gate, which is at the Great Wall of China, it’s 999 steps. The whole concept is that even though his legs have been taken from him, he still wants to get to Heaven’s Gate with his hands.
Personally, I’m not sure but I think I’m going to announce my next challenge for next year. I won’t say what it is, but I’m considering doing a challenge blind.