Former Marine left traumatised by earthquake completes cycle challenge

Richard Steven rode from Lands End to John O'Groats

Richard Steven rode from Lands End to John O'Groats

First published in News
Last updated
East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter - Waltham Forest

A former Marine who lost his "entire world" after the New Zealand earthquake has completed what he describes as one of the toughest physical and mental challenges he has ever had to endure, after riding the entire length of Britain while sleeping rough.

Richard Steven, 44, was medically discharged from service as a Royal Marine in 1999 after being injured on duty in Northern Ireland.

He moved to his wife’s native New Zealand and raised alpacas on a ten acre farm, during what Mr Steven calls the best decade of his life.

In New Zealand Mr Steven, of Coppermill Lane in Walthamstow, volunteered as an urban search and rescue defender as part of a 16-man team.

However, just as he and his wife had decided to separate in February 2011, an earthquake struck the country, killing 185 people.

The Christchurch earthquake severely damaged New Zealand's second-largest city.

Mr Steven joined the rescue effort and was searching the rubble for survivors when a 6ft wall collapsed underneath him - causing him to break his arm, collar bone and teeth and injure his back, among other injuries.

Alone, ill and miles away from family he was forced to return to the UK, selling his belongings quickly for whatever price he could fetch.

In January 2013 Mr Stevens was diagnosed with post-traumtic stress disorder.

With his injuries leaving him unable to work, Mr Steven faced what he called the "darkest days" of his life.

After visiting the Royal Garden Party in June with the Red Cross, Mr Steven decided he needed to change his life.

With a £12 tent, his bike and a small amount of cash from his army pension, he took off to try and raise money for charity.

Despite little funds for food and shelter he was determined to make it.

“On the first night after a tyre blow out I slept on a roundabout. I did that a few times. I slept in a playground, in a car park, all over the place,” he added.

“I needed something to keep me busy. I am used to planning things and keeping busy and my life came to a stop.

“I wanted to do something. I did have to rely on meeting kind people and there were some. Maybe one out of a thousand.

“Some people heard my story and gave me a shower and a meal which was great.”

Mr Steven made it from Lands End to John O’Groats in 24 days before going on to Orkney and Shetland.

He is raising money for the British Red Cross this year as it is their 150th anniversary of humanitarian services.

“I am not entitled to any benefits because of my small pension and I still can’t work because of my injuries and the PTSD but I want to do something worthwhile with my time.

“Some days I just can’t believe what has happened, I lost my entire life.

“I don’t know what happens next but I would like to continue raising money for charity – although maybe not sleeping rough next time.”

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