War hero Joe tackles gruelling triathlon

Joe Townsend crossing the finishing line
Joe Townsend crossing the finishing line

A WAR veteran from Eastbourne who lost both legs in a landmine explosion in Afghanistan has completed the Ironman competition.

Joe Townsend finished the gruelling triathlon race in Bolton in just under 13 hours and set personal best records for each of the three events – swimming, cycling and a marathon.

He was a member of Team True Spirit, all servicemen who have been maimed or had limbs amputated while serving their country and are now recovering at the military rehabilitation centre, Headley Court in Surrey.

Joe was serving with the Royal Marines and on patrol in Helmand Province when he stepped on a landmine.

He was flown home to the UK and has undergone countless operations and now uses his prosthetic legs.

Joe’s mother Debi Carter was following his progress from her home in Polegate and said she was immensely proud.

“It is amazing to think he has come so far since his accident happened,” she said. “He has been totally dedicated to his training and I am so proud of him.”

Joe did a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride and a 26.2 run, in his wheelchair, in 12 hours, 56 minutes and 38 seconds.

He said, “When I was asked in conversation if I fancied doing a leg of the Ironman, I thought, ‘Hey why not?’, but as the event started to get closer realisation of what I had got myself into sunk in.

“I started to up my training and push more and more miles and as my fitness improved so did my enthusiasm for the event.

“At this stage I was only down to do the bike and the run legs, but the more I trained the more I fancied a crack at the whole thing.

“I have never been a strong swimmer but I thought I would jump in the lake and give it ago.

“The first session went ok and I didn’t drown, which was a bonus, so I thought, ‘If I am doing the other 138 miles what’s an extra 2.4 going to hurt’.

“These past months have been hard going and the training seems to have taken over my life, but it has all been worth it to become an Ironman.”

Joe and the rest of the Team True Spirit members have raised almost £8,000 for charity through their efforts.