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When injury cut short his rugby career, Richard was inspired by Ran Fiennes to retrain as a mountaineer. He’s since taken on the most arduous physical challenges from climbing the highest peaks on all seven continents to the Yak Attack mountain bike race in Nepal, five consecutive marathons in Peru’s rainforest, two Ironman contests (back-to-back) in Snowdonia and a race to the South Pole. Testing his capabilities to the limits, and helping to further scientific understanding of mind and body through his expeditions, Richard reflects on what a person is capable of.
Richard is a former international rugby player who has gone on to be a record-breaking extreme environment athlete, challenging himself mentally and physically in the most gruelling of ways.Amongst other feats he became the first person to scale the highest peaks on each of the planet’s continents, plus Everest, and trek to the North Pole and the South Pole, all within a calendar year.
A professional rugby player for over a decade, representing Leeds, Perpignan, and his native Wales, Richard’s career was cut short by a tackle that severely injured his shoulder. Unaware of the severity of the injury, he continued to play until a consultant told his that he had to stop or risk terminal damage. After what he describes as ‘easily the most difficult year of my life’, Richard sought out a new challenge. Building on his love of outdoor pursuits, he took up climbing. His dedication and habit of pushing himself saw that evolve into taking on The 737 Challenge.
Richard not only took on one of the toughest tests - climbing the highest mountains on each of the world's continents - plus the three ‘poles’ - North Pole, South Pole and Everest - but he did it in a record seven months. After that impressive achievement, he continued to challenge himself, running over 100 miles in five days through the Peruvian rainforest, and becoming the fastest Briton in history to ski solo, unsupported and unassisted from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole (an expedition he filmed for Channel 5).
Now an extreme athlete, Richard works with academics, medics and companies to study the effects of extreme environments on the human mind and body. Each expedition has a social or charitable element, whether it raising over £365,000 for Marie Curie Cancer Care, working with GlaxoSmithKline Human Performance Lab in the Antarctic, or climbing Everest without oxygen to help studies in dementia. With results aiding everything from sporting performance research to clothing to neuroscience he has a unique take on what a person is capable of.
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Despite his reputation as an aggressive rugby player, Richard comes across as a humble guy. His irrepressible enthusiasm for death-defying exploits for charity can’t fail to raise a smile. More importantly, the way he's turned career-ending injury into a source of motivation is a terrific lesson for anyone. JLA Agent Millie Thomas