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In 2017, F4 racing driver Billy Monger, also known as "Billy Whizz," was involved in a collision on the track that left him seriously injured and resulted in the amputation of both his legs. In a new video for Comic Relief, he shares how he was so full of adrenaline at the time that he felt no pain, and didn't realize he was injured. It was only when he woke up from a medically induced coma three days later that he learned the doctors had been forced to amputate both of his lower legs.
"It's a bit of a brutal awakening, but the person that made it easiest for me was my doctor, who did the surgeries," he says. "Rather than closing my mind to what I'd lost, he opened my mind to what I still had."
Following the lengthy, arduous process of learning to walk again, Monger returned to the world of racing, although as his trainer Andy Wellfare explains, that was not without its challenges. "The huge G-forces, you have to be incredibly strong to race a car in terms of core, shoulder, neck strength, and also cardio. You'd be surprised how high the heart rate gets, and how hot the temperature gets within that car... They're proper athletes."
The willpower and perseverance that propelled Monger's comeback meant that when he was approached to do the Ironman triathlon in 2021, to raise money for Comic Relief, he immediately said yes. "It just came at the right moment, where I was in such a groove with my training, and enjoyed that process a lot, getting better in areas, that I was like, yeah I'll do it."
While the Ironman triathlon usually includes a swim, bike ride and marathon-length run, Monger's version is slightly different, and will consist of 18 miles in a kayak, 26.2 mile run, and 95 miles on a bike. Wellfare says that managing Monger's stump health was a priority throughout their training, including ensuring he had the right kind of prosthetics for each event in the triathlon, and anticipating how issues in one section may affect the others.
"I've been through a lot of physical strain over the last few years, learning how to walk again, learning how to compete again," says Monger. "This for me, as a challenge in general, is probably going to be the toughest thing I've taken on since my accident."
Monger completes the challenge over the space of four days, raising more than £2 million for Comic Relief in the process.
"It was easily 80 percent mental fortitude," he says. "I think about four laps from the finish, my legs really went to jelly, and they were done. There were 10 miles left to go, and at that point I was just like, yeah I'm done. I literally had to forget everyone else is here, go deep in the zone. I've never been so emotional while hurting as much as I was. I had to draw on every emotional experience I've ever had in my life. My accident, my friends, my family, the people we were going to help who I've met from the charities, all of that came from within."
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