Blade runner’s long road ahead

Trail runner Phil Sheridan from Keighley crosses Blea Moor to run up Whernside from the Ribblehead viaduct in the Yorkshire Dales.
Trail runner Phil Sheridan from Keighley crosses Blea Moor to run up Whernside from the Ribblehead viaduct in the Yorkshire Dales.
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RUNNING the equivalent of three marathons over three consecutive days would prove a challenge for most able-bodied individuals. But Philip Sheridan’s attempt to run 80 miles off-road is all the more remarkable given that he is an amputee.

He estimates he will spend at least eight hours a day running through often inhospitable terrain, having to cope with the kind of issues most people never even have to think about, such as instantly having to correct his balance if his running blade touches the ground awkwardly to stop a tumble, and coping with slippery mud.

Trail running has given him the kind of freedom he once never believed he would be able to find after he suffered potentially life-threatening injuries in a motorcycle crash a decade ago which led to the amputation of his right leg.

“It’s just so rewarding that you can get to places of extreme beauty that you could never get to,” he said.

“Running is such an important part of my life. There’s something about being out there and sometimes out by yourself that is really beneficial. I like being out with other runners as well.”

The 48-year-old’s life turned upside down 10 years ago when he suffered multiple injuries following a motorcycle accident on Friday September 13, 2002.

Exactly 10 years later, on September 13 this year, he will begin his Dales Way challenge which will see him run between Ilkley and Bowness-on-Windermere.

He was fitted with a high-tech Ossur running leg made from a carbon fibre lower blade with an all-terrain sole and an aluminium shank which is attached to his knee with a socket.

The Icelandic false leg is similar to the ones worn by the Blade Runner South African athlete Oscar Pistorius.

Mr Sheridan, of Keighley, was offered the Ossur Flex-Foot by a consultant who realised it could help him run more efficiently.

He says trail running throws up many challenges from having to deal with difficult undulating terrain, negotiate mud, stones, tree roots, and whatever else the elements wish to throw at him, while ensuring he is able to maintain his balance.

“It’s going to be tough and I think it will be a long day. I am certainly envisaging eight hours a day and it could even be longer,” he says of his challenge which will see him run around 80 miles over three days through some of the most spectacular scenery in the Yorkshire Dales before finishing his epic journey in the Lake District.

“It’s constantly challenging your mind to be switched on all the time you have to think about where you are putting your blade, it can sometimes be like a dance on the trail,” he added.

During the challenge, he will have back-up and stop at regular intervals to rest and check the impact on his stump.

He is also training hard to build up his strength to enable his upper body to cope with the rigours of the challenge.

His motorbike accident happened on a run to Whitby.

Apart from a shattered right leg, he had severe injuries to his left leg, arms, shoulder and other injuries.

Mr Sheridan, who worked for Leeds Council’s children’s services before and after the accident, said: “When I had the accident for a long time I was laid in a hospital bed immobile, literally from head to foot the only thing that I could move was my left hand.

“Over time slowly but surely I gained more mobility.”

He was in a wheelchair for 12 months and has had to deal with the emotional aftermath of the accident.

He says he never set himself targets and tried to concentrate on making steady progress as he recovered.

Before the accident he loved running but when he took it up again afterwards he had to learn how to run again.

Gradually his brain was able to remember what to do and he just developed from there.

September’s Dales Way challenge will raise money for a number of charities.

Anyone wishing to sponsor Mr Sheridan can visit the website: www.justgiving.com/teams/DalesWayUltraRun.