The fact that Shaun Gash has done such things as climb Helvellyn, Snowdonia and Mount Kilimanjaro, jumped 15,000 ft from an aeroplane, a whole host of obstacle course races and is about to embark on Lands End to John O’Groats is enough to warrant his place as one of our ‘Featured Adventures/ Athletes’ but what makes Shaun’s feats even more amazing is that he does all this while in a wheelchair.
26 years ago Shaun was involved in a car crash, he was in the back seat and was paralysed from the chest down. This certainly hasn’t stopped him from doing the things he was told he could never do and more importantly the things that he wants to do. We caught up with Shaun to find out more about his fascinating life.
(Quirky Races) Were you an active and sporty person before the wheelchair?
(Shaun Gash) Sport has always been a big part of my life from an early age at school. Captain of the school rugby teams throughout my school life. When I left school I moved up to Lancaster and played football for a local side.
(QR) You’ve been in the chair for 26 years now. At what point was it that you decided you were going to take on these epic challenges? What was the first one you did?
(SG) My first addiction to looking at challenges only started 5 years ago when I organised and took part in a 12 hour Spin/Krank Spinathon to raise money for the local Lancaster Bulldogs Wheelchair Basketball Junior team who needed made to measure wheelchairs for children aged 6 years plus. From then I began to plan the next challenge and so on. I am very fortunate that having my wife Dawn and my family who not only support me but also take on the challenges with me and are my true inspiration and focus.
(QR) When was ‘No Fear on Wheel’ team (family) assembled and who is the team made up of?
(SG) The ‘No Fear on Wheels’ family started the same year as the 12 hour Krancycle/spinathon, although it was with my local gym VVV Health and Leisure Club that it originally materialised.
To date the biggest number of the No Fear on Wheels team in one event was 53 at the First Mud 7 OCR. We have family members from all over the country who have completed in various courses we have wheeled through.
(QR) When did you first get into obstacle course racing (OCR) and how did that come about?
(SG) My first encounter with an OCR was when I went to watch my wife, Dawn and the members from VVV, take on Total Warrior. Watching them start and finish covered in mud and with huge smiles on their faces I sat there thinking I would love to have a go. I hadn’t come across anyone in a wheelchair take part in an OCR and decided I wanted to give it a go. Various emails back and forth to a particular OCR and they had decided that I couldn’t take part. This was devastating as whatever query they had I came up with a solution. Anyway Simon Cranston the owner of VVV put me in contact with Kevin Bedford the RD for Born Survivor. From meetings and discussions he agreed and supported myself and also my mate Andrew to take part in the Born Survivor OCR up at Lowther Castle. This was the start of my OCR journey!
(SG) What would you say has been your favourite OCR, most challenging one and do you have your eyes on any others that you’d like to try to conquer?
(SG) I don’t think I could say which is my favourite OCR as I totally enjoy every one I do and the different challenges they present.
Born Survivor, Zeus Races, Reaper, McTuff, Ram Run, Torture Trail, Mud 7, 2x UK Champs- they’ve all been great.
I think the most challenging was McTuff as 1km into the course I ended up with a flat tyre and for the rest of the course the NFOW family, feeling cold and tired managed to drag the wheelchair across some difficult terrain in the Scottish Highlands. Its difficult the best of times but on this occasion the family really dug deep and completed.
Without the amazing support from every family member of the NFOW I cant do and participate in the courses I do. Every single member I have the utmost respect and love for.
(QR) Tell us about your Mount Kilimanjaro climb. Is it fair to say that things didn’t go exactly to plan but you still accomplished a lot along the way? Are you still planning to go back for another shot?
(SG) Mount Kilimanjaro was the most surreal experience so far. The Rongai Route had never been attempted by a paraplegic before so being the first was my goal as well as climbing to the roof of Africa.
The third day Dawn was evacuated because of the altitude and so this was the lowest point for me. But my good friend Gav, who has been with me in every epic challenge stepped up and looked after me. I owe him more than he will ever know for his support and love to keep me inspired and driven to achieve what I do.
I was 500 metres off reaching the summit and due to the altitude and terrain the porters who were with me alongside Gav and Paul were knackered. For every step it took 2 so in 20 metres it took over an hour which was tiring. But with the support of Darren Hunt our guide plans are in place to go back and finish off where we left off. We will be looking at a different route and ensuring we summit!
(QR) I understand you’ve also climbed several other mountings. Which ones and how were those experiences?
(SR) Yeah, Helvellyn and Snowdon have been conquered. We used Helvellyn as the tester for the new RGK TIGA FRONTWHEEL wheelchair which was specifically built by Michael Sheen and the guys at RGK for taking up Mount Kilimanjaro. Again with a supportive team around me proving that even a mountain doesn’t stop you from achieving anything you want with support, determination and motivation.
(QR) Where would you rate jumping 15,000ft out of an airplane in your life experiences? I’ve done that myself, it’s pretty amazing isn’t it?
(SG) The sky dive was exhilarating to say the least. Having a free fall for a minute was (excuse the expression) like I was flying. When the parachute opened the serenity in the air was awesome, having a full on discussion with my instructor as we came into land. Absolutely loved it and defo on my bucket list again to do.
(QR) Next month you embark on Lands End to John O’Groats (LEJOG) and are aiming to complete it in just 20 days. That’s going to be some challenge. Please tell us more.
(SG) From sitting in a tent talking with Gav we thought about the next challenge and it was decided LEJOG in 20 days. So on 9th August we embark on 873 miles changing lives along the way. But what is as inspiring is that Gav will also be pushed in a wheelchair alongside me, Dawn, Colette and Niamh who will be cycling the entire length as well.
You can keep updated and follow us on live tracking all the way at http://www.20twentychallenge.org.uk
(QR) What does life away from the epicness of your sport and adventure endeavours involve?
(SG) I am a proud family man, being married to Dawn for the past 22 years. Having 17 year old twins, Sharna and Kyle and a young daughter Niamh who is 12 years old.
I work full time as a Keyworker for Lancashire County Council, working and supporting families, children and young people.
(QR) Do you have any other challenges already planned and any you perhaps haven’t planned out yet but have on your bucket list for the future?
(SG) Next year the focus will be on taking my family on holiday as they have supported me throughout and been a part of my amazing journey so far.
With regards to challenges,
3 Peaks – Ben Nevis- Scar fell- Snowdon in a weekend,
Canoeing the Zambezi river and some other thing which are in the pipeline.
Shaun is currently looking for sponsorship and also other charities to support. You can follow him at http://www.momentsofinspiration.org.uk