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Pete is a man on a mission in CPL Wheelchair Marathon

Australian Army veteran Pete Rudland (51) will be on a special assignment when he takes part in his debut wheelchair marathon on the Gold Coast on Sunday 2 July.

The former Special Air Service Regiment (SASR)/commando (CDO) soldier retired received life changing injuries in a Black Hawk helicopter crash in Afghanistan in 2010 – a catastrophe far from home that claimed the lives of three fellow Australian commandos and an American soldier.

It left the Platoon Sergeant with massive internal injuries, most major bones broken, and his right leg impaled by his own rifle as he was thrown 35 metres from the wreck.

Waking up in a hospital in Germany sometime later, the aspiring runner and triathlete was unsure if his musculoskeletal condition would let him ever take part in sport again.

Fast forward thirteen years and this three-time Invictus Games representative and gold medallist for Australia in recumbent cycling, sit-skier in Canada, Ironman competitor and RSL Australia ambassador is ready for his next challenge on the streets of the Gold Coast.

And he’s calling on others to come on his latest mission with him.

“One of the things that I’m a part of big time is RSL Active which is about getting veterans off the lounge,” Pete said.

“In the military we went into work and did physical training (PT) from 7:30am to 9:30am and we had a very active lifestyle as it was, and PT is very much a part of who we are as servicemen and servicewomen.

“But what tends to happen is when servicepeople discharge, especially if they’re a medical discharge, they get up in the morning, they play with their phone, they watch The Today Show, they play with their phone again, and they’ve forgotten that active lifestyle.

“So, I’m very big on trying to get people back into that space, and regardless of whether they’ve been wounded or people who have simply left the services when their time is up, just being in that space leads to a healthy mind and a healthy body.

“We do it [encourage physical activity] because it’s something that we love, and it makes us all good people,” he said.

Pete, who lives at Terranora NSW and who says speed bumps on roads are his biggest bugbear these days, will have plenty of family support on the 1-2 July race weekend with a brother-in-law and sister-in-law up from Wollongong to run in the ASICS Half Marathon the day before.

And he won’t be travelling the marathon distance alone on the Sunday with close friend Matty Brumby joining him and maybe offering some sage words of advice after already having a Gold Coast CPL Wheelchair Marathon under his belt.

Matty is a para-athlete Ironman World Champion, Half Ironman World Champion and Invictus Games co-captain and gold medallist.

He joined the Royal Australian Navy in 1994 as a Steward, before being discharged in 2001 following a spinal injury brought about by a syrinx – a fluid filled cavity – which formed inside his spinal cord.

“Matty and I trained together a few years ago to go to Kona in Hawaii where he had his crack at the World Ironman Championships,” Pete said.

“I went over there as a trainer for him, and I sort of got talked into doing a triathlon and then, as happens, I jumped in boots and all for a crack at a full Ironman myself.

“So doing this marathon together will be pretty special,” he said.

And of his preparations leading into the race?

“To be honest, it’s been sort of a labour of pain.

“A few injury related problems popped up before the 70.3 Ironman in Busselton [2022 WA Ironman] with left shoulder drama, knee drama and back injury sort of stuff which goes back to when my back fused in the helicopter crash.

“It’s caused me a fair bit of grief and I had to sort of back off on training, but I saw a pain specialist not long ago and now I reckon I’ll hit the course in fairly good shape.

“Still, don’t expect any magical times; it will be more like I’ll get out there and have a push and enjoy the day,” he said.

Pete’s next stop will be a considerably more enjoyable return trip to Germany for the 2023 World Invictus Games in Dusseldorf in September where he’ll take on a team mentoring role and equipment manager and wheelchair mechanic for the basketballers and rugby players.

“There’s only one of me looking after the gear, so it’s going to be a busy time over there, but I can’t wait,” he said.


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