Josh Senior isn’t afraid of a challenge.
Overcoming a broken back and a lower leg amputation, learning to walk again, and managing life-changing injuries would be enough to floor most people, but Josh is made of sterner stuff.
As if the world needed further proof of his mettle, Josh embarked on a series of challenges this year to raise money for the Air Ambulance Kent Surrey Sussex. A registered charity, the air ambulance relies solely on donations to operate. And without them and their supporters, Josh doubts he would still be here.
He suffered a 35-foot fall in 2010 and was picked up by the Air Ambulance. Such were the severity of his injuries, the air crew radioed ahead to say he would likely be DOA (dead on arrival). Without such swift help from the trained paramedics and doctors on board, his story could have ended quite differently.
The idea for 12 challenges in 12 months was hatched during a ten-mile tough mudder last year. “I was pushing my body to the extreme, suffering but equally loving the new challenge,” Josh explained. “I thought this was something I could do to raise money for the charity, but I needed it to be a big enough challenge to really push myself, not just something that would take a few extra hours of work.”
For someone who is already in full-time training as a GB Paraclimber, the challenges had to sit alongside the already rigorous workouts he was putting his body through. Thus far six challenges have been completed, from a half-marathon which Josh described as “painful” to a Red Bull quicksand event where Josh’s blade “turned into a spade at times.” Not to mention getting to grips with open water swimming for a 5k paddle in a couple of months…
The challenges are continuing to come thick and fast. The one Josh is dreading though, is up last – a 24-hour rope climb, where he will be joined by two friends as they attempt between them to climb the height of Everest.
Climbing has always been a staple feature in Josh’s life, and something he was keen to come back to post-injury. But given that he fell from height, how easy was it to face his fears and start enjoying the lofty sport again?
“Not easy,” is the swift reply. “I started on a top rope. I thought for a while that that would be it for me, something nice and safe where I couldn’t fall. But bit by bit I pushed myself and my boundaries, and when a local bouldering centre opened up nearby I couldn’t resist.”
Josh openly admits that taking a fall from the top of a bouldering wall isn’t straightforward. The injury to his back is an unknown quantity in many respects, with little to no data on how many impact-related falls - like those that are part and parcel of bouldering – can be sustained by athletes carrying spinal injuries. Instead of letting a lack of facts deter him, Josh uses it as inspiration to push the boundaries of what his body is capable of.
“Long term I’d like to climb outside more,” Josh says. “Sport climbing scares me still. The idea of falling isn’t one I’m comfortable with right now. But I’m willing to push myself and give it a go and see how far I get.”
Given Josh’s success rate with his challenges so far, you wouldn’t bet against him conquering his fears and becoming as proficient a sport climber as he is a boulderer. That is a future project – for now, the 12 challenges are keeping him busy until quite late at night.
“One of the challenges is to complete 300 reps for 300 days of the year – pull ups, push ups, squats, burpess and the like, which you always start the day thinking you’ll find the time. But invariably, real life takes over, it gets to 10pm and you find yourself outside doing pull ups in the dark!”
Dedicated? Absolutely. Inspirational? Completely. One thing comes across to anyone who spends time with Josh – his insatiable thirst for life, for self-improvement and an almost military-like ability to dig deep and push his body to the extremes of what it is capable of.
The Everest rope climb might be the final challenge of the year, but he won’t have taken his foot off the gas for it, despite being a climber through and through. Climbing a rope might use some of the same muscles but it isn’t the same as climbing a wall, something Josh is all too aware of.
“The correct technique involves trapping the rope between your legs… doesn’t work quite so well with a prothesis! Then there is the fatigue element. The wee hours of the morning might be the moment I question my life choices…”