Team True Spirit's Simon Maxwell picks up an award at the Millies

They say about Captain Simon Maxwell that he’s one of those jovial, upbeat, the glass is always full kind of guys. Life happens, so roll with the punches; that’s the kind of motto he lives his life by.
The Royal Marines Commando might be a below the leg amputee – he lost his leg when he stepped on an IED in Afghanistan – but that hasn’t diminished his ability to stay positive and full of laughter.
Take for example coming up against Ricky Gervais at the Millies recently. Gervais can pull wisecracks one after the other, but he met his match with Simon. Posing for photographs alongside the very tall commando, the comedian said: “Is it wrong to worry about feeling short at a time like this?” To which Simon instantly quipped: “I’ve lost a leg and I’m still taller than him.”
It’s an amazing disposition to have given the trauma he has gone through, and all jokes aside, Simon is a truly remarkable individual who believes that anything is possible if you believe it to be so.
He proved that to be true in 2012, when, just under a year of experiencing the devastating injury, he participated in the punishing Ironman UK triathlon, one of the most demanding endurance tests in the world.
This amazing accomplishment was duly recognised at the Millies, the annual awards ceremony which honours members of the British armed forces and civilians involved with the forces, when Simon picked up the award for Overcoming Adversity.
It’s no easy ride, explains Hayley Humble, wellbeing programme manager at Tedworth House and formerly an exercise and rehabilitation instructor at Headley Court Rehabilitation Centre.
“Ironman UK is not just physically gruelling, it is also a psychological battle,” she says. “When your body tells you to give up, you need the strength of mind and character to continue, and here is where Simon did well.”
His training as a Royal Marine’s Commando imbued him with this tough and resilient outlook. After all, when your unofficial tagline is “it’s a state of mind”, you begin to understand how fit in the mind and body those in the armed services are. This carries on into civilian life, injury or no injury.
Simon trained alongside Hayley as part of Team True Spirit, which is a group comprised of injured servicemen who aim to make a difference to their lives and that of others.
Team True Spirit, which is sponsored by Cadogan Tate (official logistics partner), also helped ferment a never say no attitude, which is certainly something you need when it comes to the Ironman challenge.
“While doing the Ironman it is not uncommon to go through a rollercoaster of emotions,” Hayley elucidates. “One time I saw someone sitting on the side of the road crying, unable to go on. They only had a mile to go and they were like ‘I can’t do it’. Your body is devoid of all energy and it can seem like an epic task.”
For able-bodied people, the triathlon – made up of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile marathon, and must be completed in a taxing 17 hours – is hard enough, which really brings home how unbelievable injured servicemen like Simon are.
As Hayley informs, despite his injury, Simon just has a why not attitude, something she cottoned onto right from their first meeting at Headley. Nothing bothered him and he was always willing to give everything a go.
“We instantly hit it off as we have a very similar sense of humour,” remembers Hayley. “He’s very laidback and chilled out – our sessions would often dissolve into massive belly laughs and we really had to compose ourselves to get back into it.”
She is speechless when she looks back on how much Simon has achieved from when she saw him arrive in a wheelchair, through the good and bad times of rehabilitation and on to participating as a duo during the triathlon. To experience crossing the line with him, she says, was awesome.
Two days after the event, they decided to go for a swim in the lake, simply because they could, an apt way of quietly reflecting on what they had achieved, especially Simon.
Afterwards, as they enjoyed a bacon sandwich and a hot cup of tea, Simon expressed his incredulity that he had not only participated in Ironman, but did so under a year of losing his leg and moreover, completed it. It was also his first ever triathlon.
“What’s your next challenge?” was Hayley’s response. Life is beautiful.