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Wed 20th Mar 2019
From broken back to double iron
Posted by: Editor
Posted on: Friday 17th July 2015

Tags  Brutal  |  Brutal Triathlon  |  Ian Thwaites  |  Level Water  |  The Brutal

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In April last year, Ian Thwaites, a GB Age Group Triathlete, crashed his bike and broke four vertebrae in his back. This year he's training for a double iron-distance triathlon to help get more disabled children into sport.

Ian was riding a Time Trial bike at 30mph when part of his glove hooked around the gear lever. When he moved his hand it pulled the steering hard right and left him on the wrong side of the road, head-on to a van.

After avoiding the van Ian ended up hitting a dirt bank head-on before flipping and finding himself face down in the road, not breathing. He was winded, and when his breath returned he felt a splitting pain between his shoulder blades. That's when he knew he had broken his back.

Ian was hospitalised for four days, concussed for four weeks and didn't exercise for almost a year afterwards. He runs a charity, Level Water (, that teaches disabled children to swim and during his recovery resolved to get fit again and personally do a fundraising challenge for the charity.

Ian Thwaites

He started training in April 2015 and after three weeks – and a total of seven sessions – was out running on the anniversary of the accident. He had done 20k and felt fresh, so decided to run a marathon. The next day he searched for the most extreme triathlons in the world and found - this list - he's doing the only one in the UK, the Brutal Extreme Double.

Ian ThwaitesAn Ironman triathlon is the ultimate endurance test. It's 140.6 miles; you start at 7am and have until midnight to finish. The Brutal Extreme Double is twice that distance and the winner last year took more than 30 hours.

It's a 4.8-mile lake swim that is usually 13 degrees. The bike ride is 232 miles – like riding from London to Paris but with 5,000m of elevation. Then they run up and down Snowdon – the highest mountain in Wales – and finally make it up to a double marathon or 52 miles on trails, a huge challenge in its own right.

The race leaders with be on the bike from 9am Saturday until 2am Sunday, before running up and down Snowdon in the middle of the night. After a full 24 hours of racing they'll start the two marathons.

Most competitors train 12-18 months for this, including a series of increasing Ultra runs and 100-200 mile bike rides. Ian has four months to get fit. But he's got something else – a big reason to prove that he's physically and mentally strong again and an even bigger reason to never stop – his charity Level Water.

Ian launched Level Water two years ago because disabled children are one-third as likely to play sport as their friends. They face isolation and exclusion from the start. The thing they want to do most is swim, but group lessons are often not safe or effective for many disabled children to learn. Level Water finds those disabled children who aren't playing sport and teaches them to swim by providing free one-to-one lessons. From there the children go on to mainstream group lessons and ultimate join competitive clubs to train and race.

One of those children is Morgan. His mum, Karen said:

“I had not considered any kind of sport properly as a possibility for Morgan. It only takes one person's support and suddenly you're thinking “how far can we go with this?” Having the right support from Level Water is truly a life-changer.”

Level Water spends every penny of donations directly on swimming lessons. Each lesson costs £10 and with £10,000 they can teach twenty children for a whole year.

To support Ian and get more disabled children swimming, please donate at

Ian Thwaites

Ian Thwaites


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