Army Veteran Danny Shanahan, 42, served for 23 years before he was medically discharged in 2016 following a blast injury, which later caused him to struggle with his mental health. Danny was part of the Invictus Games in Sydney earlier this year, competing in Archery and Sitting Volleyball and said of his experience: “the Invictus Games training has allowed me to break down barriers and mix with others that have been in the same boat. It’s not what ‘I was’ any-more it’s all about what ‘I am’ and ‘what we are’ – the Invictus Games environment has allowed us to hold our heads back up and enjoy something new. I don’t feel as alone now.”
Following the Invictus Games Trials, Danny signed up to take part in the iconic Great North Run alongside thousands of fellow runners. He said: “Finally I came forward to do a challenge which has helped change my life and outlook. I really can't explain the sense of achievement I gained from the Great North Run - I started to feel unconquered by my injuries and illness”. Danny went on to say he hopes to give other veterans the confidence to take part: “I hope that somebody else can be inspired to take on a challenge to change their thoughts and how they look at life”.
“I wanted to fundraise for Help for Heroes because they’ve given me and many others so much. Charities like these are so important. You leave the Forces as a number and it’s Help for Heroes who have kept me engaged, put me through career recovery workshops and helped me move on. It’s so important for me to give back by raising money and awareness.”
“Doing the Great North Run, I honestly felt sick. That’s putting it lightly. I didn’t train, I looked at a few marathon magazines, but in the end, I just got on and did it. Those I was running with spurred me on even though I’d never met any of my team mates before. Hearing the spectators shouting your name and cheering for Help for Heroes was great. I loved every second.”
Danny believes that taking part in the Great North Run, and later the Invictus Games has helped him to regain his purpose as part of his recovery: “before signing up for the Great North Run, and for the Invictus Games, I felt like a failure. It made me do something. By fundraising, I didn’t want to let people down, so I knew I had to get on and do it. It gave me so much confidence that I didn’t have before. I was determined to keep going for the people who sponsored me and knowing that money is going to support those who need it. It was such an achievement.”
“Without the Great North Run I think Invictus may have been too overwhelming for me. Doing a Help for Heroes challenge just beforehand really prepared me for the experience. It put me in front of crowds and got me interacting with other people in a team who I’d never met before. In the first couple of miles, it felt like a warm up for Invictus, hearing people cheering and clapping. It sounds like a small thing, but to me it was a massive boost to my confidence.”
Danny wants to encourage others to take part in a challenge in support of the Charity, so that we can keep supporting Veterans and their families: “I’m a perfect example of why people should sign up to a challenge. I’ve sat behind the lines and watched others do things like the Great North Run for so many years, watching the world go by thinking it won’t ever be me. But as soon as I signed up, I really felt I could achieve something. I felt so involved as part of the Help for Heroes team once I arrived, I didn’t look back. I’d sign up to do the Great North Run for Help for Heroes again in a heartbeat."