War veteran told he would never walk again treks from John O’Groats to Land’s End

A war veteran, who was told he would never walk again after being shot in Afghanistan, has become the first person on crutches to walk from John O’Groats to Land’s End.

Mark Harding was left paralysed after he was shot in the neck by a Taliban sniper in 2010, but is now able to walk with the use of crutches.

The 47-year-old has just completed a hugely challenging fundraising walk from John O’Groats to Land’s End.

The first person to ever do so on crutches, Mark has now been unveiled as the new Ambassador for Army Benevolent Fund’s 2024 Cateran Yomp. 

The 2024 event will once again challenge teams of soldiers, veterans and civilians to walk 22, 36 or 54 miles across the rugged terrain of the Perthshire countryside within 24 hours. 

Participants will head off on the Cateran Trail in the foothills of the Cairngorm Mountains on 8 June, returning to Blairgowrie in the early hours of 9 June. 

Next year’s event, which falls just two days after the 80th anniversary of D-Day, also coincides with the charity’s 80th anniversary.

Last year’s event raised £300,000 for soldiers, veterans and their families, with 1,200 participants travelling from across the UK and around the world. 

Mark Harding served with the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment for 16 years, mostly as a sniper with the Reconnaissance platoon. 

His service included operational tours in Bosnia, Kosovo, Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan. 

In 2010, while leading a routine patrol in Afghanistan, Mark was shot by a Taliban sniper. 

Despite doctors’ predictions, Mark was determined to overcome his injuries and learn to walk again, a goal he achieved two and a half years later.

‘When I was injured and lying in hospital for seven months, paralysed from the neck down, Army Benevolent Fund stepped up and awarded a grant to convert my house, creating a downstairs bedroom, widening doors, and moving my garage which is now a gym,’ Mrak said.

‘This was when my recovery, both physical and mental, really started. I could see a future again.

‘For individuals and businesses considering The Cateran Yomp, I urge them to go for it. Every step they take will raise more money, not just for veterans but their families too. 

‘People don’t realise that the partners, husbands, and wives are the backbone of these soldiers, so they can go and do their job. 

‘People tell me they couldn’t do what I do but everything is doable. 

‘Soldiers are taught to flip negatives into positives and that’s what I’m doing. Find what works for you, and do it.’

CEO of Army Benevolent Fund, added: ‘We are so grateful to all our fundraisers and supporters for their incredible generosity, which enables us to ensure that soldiers, veterans, and their immediate families have the opportunity to avoid hardship and enjoy independence and dignity.  

‘We are very much looking forward to seeing you all in Scotland in June, when we will be joined by this year’s Ambassador, Mark Harding, who was awarded the Inspiration Award at the 2023 Soldiering On Awards in recognition of his amazing fundraising activities and sheer courage in overcoming injuries sustained on operations in Afghanistan.’

Read more on Scottish Field’s News pages. 

Plus, don’t miss the December issue of Scottish Field magazine.