Staff Sergeant Stephen Hughes, who is currently serving in Afghanistan, has just finished a poignant endurance challenge in memory of the 453 British personnel who lost their lives during the conflict.
Over the course of twenty days, which reflects the twenty tours of duty the British forces undertook in Afghanistan, Stephen took on a physical challenge each day, repeating it 453 times.
The tough exercises include 453 40kg squats, a 4.53km 100kg sledge pull and 453 tricep dips.
Stephen, who is serving with 2 Rifles, who have their home base at Thiepval Barracks in Lisburn, wants to raise £5000 for Royal Hospital Chelsea.
Stephen started his ‘Reps 2 Remember’ challenge on November 30. Writing on his Facebook blog, Stephen said: “To say it was hard was an understatement, my hands got that bad towards the 200 reps point that I had to tape them up. All 453 heaves completed in a time of 2hrs 2 mins.”
Each day after that Stephen took on a different challenge and had great support from his comrades. After a day of 453 squats, Stephen decided to go running.
“I took a risk by running outside camp on the training area instead of inside the wire where its safe,” said Stephen about day four of the challenge. “I got a lot of funny looks from the Afghan Army as nobody in the history of this place has done this with no weapon or body armour, but fortunately I had a few vehicles following me to make sure of my security.”
As the days went on Stephen found the exercises getting more difficult as his body started to feel the affects of the physical exertion.
Day eight proved to be tough for Stephen, who said: “It was the hardest with 22kg of fighting gear doing 24 hill reps to total 4.6km.
“The downhills do not count as part of the distance only the up hill, which is double the height of Snowden. I have to say the body armour restricting my breathing along with the altitude did not help me one bit.
“At just past the half way point I had to have a serious word with myself,
“I wasn’t walking straight, eyes were closing and I just did not want to be on that mountain in the heat.”
Despite the impact on his body, Stephen completed day eight and rallied to complete his day nine challenge with a 20kg kettlebell press.
Stephen got support from both the Danish and Canadian army and after day eleven the exercises became even more difficult.
On day twelve Stephen started coughing up blood and suffered nose bleeds but he was determined not to give in. “It happens when you push the body too much with little rest,” explained Stephen.
“But most importantly the day was dedicated to a close PTI friend of mine who sadly lost his life on September 5, 2010 in Helmand. He was a cracking lad and we had some laughs together. LCpl Joe Pool, Royal Regt of Scotland - a true hero.”
Stephen completed his challenge on Friday (December 19) and despite how wrecked his body feels, he is proud to have completed the challenge.
To find out more about Stephen’s challenge log onto Facebook at Reps2Remember. You can also donate online at https://www.justgiving.com/stephen-hughes21/