An inspirational ex-soldier who had his legs blown up in Afghanistan has gone on to defy the odds by running back to back marathons.
Luke Wigman, who grew up in Eastwood, has taken on enormous challenges including running seven marathons in seven continents in seven days – raising more than £1 million or charity in the process.
As well as training for running events, he now devotes his life to talking about his experiences and sharing it with others.
The 31-year-old oozes positivity and says he is grateful the new chapter in his life allowed him to “fulfil his dreams”.
He says: “It is painful. It’s a dull ache, but functionally it doesn’t stop me from running.
“If I can do these events and raise money for an incredible cause, then it’s all worth it.
“It’s great to do my talks and pass on the positive message.
“I have wanted to do these running events for years but wanting isn’t enough. You have to do them – and it’s great I can share my stories.”
Luke, who will be giving a talk at Eastwood Hall on Friday, June 1, joined the RAF in 2008 and served as a paratrooper in a special operations unit during the Afgahn war.
However, in 2013 he stepped on an improvised explosive device which blew his left leg apart and left the other severely injured.
He says: “I had my lead man to detect for bombs, but unfortunately he missed one bomb and I was the one who stepped into it.
“There was a loud explosion and dust everywhere.
“When the dust settled I looked around all the troops to ensure they were okay and they were all looking in my direction.
“I could see flesh missing around my left knee. I did my own first aid and administered morphine. I radioed through and the evacuation started.
“It caused a lot of damage to my left leg. I lost a lot of flesh and was in hopsital for a long time.
“In the early days, I had to learn to walk again, even small things like learning how to balance again, and I’ve got a lot of circulation issues as well.
“I can’t stand up or drive for long periods or my leg swells.”
After a year of intense rehabilition, Luke was told he had to quit his dream job in the Army as he could no longer kneel down or carry any weight due to his injuries.
However, he has turned the negative into a positive.
In the face of adversity, the determined athlete fought back to become a stronger, and now respected international competitor, coming runner-up in two of the world’s most mentally and physically demanding marathons, held at the North Pole and Antarctica, as well as becoming the Volcano Marathon Champion in November 2016.
He also represented his country in the London Invictus Games in 2014, winning the 1500m gold medal, and most recently at the 2016 Orlando Invictus Games,, where he retained his 1500m title, as well as bringing home bronze in the 400m.
In January 2017, Luke competed in what he describes as his most gruelling race to date.
He successfully completed seven marathons on seven continents in seven days, known as the ‘World Marathon Challenge’, averaging three hours and nine minutes per marathon, and raising £1m for the Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre.
Of the 50 people to have ever succeeded in the challenge, Luke became the fastest British runner to complete it, ranking him third of all time.
Looking at the future, Luke said there was still marathons that he wanted to do.
He said: “The one in the North Pole, that I came second in in 2014, I want to do again and try and win it.
“I would love to do a marathon through the Amazon jungle. I also want to do some kind of South Pole expedition and a few of the bigger challenges are on my bucket list, like climbing Mount Everest.”
Luke said he did not feel angry toward the people who caused his injury, despite being forced to quit his dream job after just a few years.
“That’s their life. That’s all they know,” he says.
“They have grown up in this hostile warzone and were doing what they thought was right. They have just been misled and were doing what they thought was the right thing to do.
“They have also ultimately made me into abetter person.
“The marathons I do make me a stronger person.
“It’s also taught me how we take things for granted every single day. Some of my friends lost multiple limbs and struggle to walk to the shop.
“Some people would kill to be in my position.
“It was about moving on and entering a new chapter in my life. It’s opened my eyes to this life I lead now and I have learnt what I am capable of.
“It shows people there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
“You might be going through an awful time now, but in a few years you could be achieving everything you wanted to achieve. You will come out a stronger person.
Luke now works part-time for the East Midlands Ambulance Service as an emergency care assistant alongside paramedics.
He started life in Selston and moved to Eastwood aged six, where he lived until he was in his mid 20s and went off to serve in the Army.
After leaving, he returned to Selston, where he lives now.
Luke will be speaking at Eastwood Hall on June 1 improvised explosive device. Tickets are £10 and proceeds will go to the DNRC.
He says: “It’s going to be interesting coming back to where I grew up. A lot of the tickets that have sold so far are people that I know so it’s going to be a tough one.”