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The true definition of human spirit

29th May 2012

There's a great line in William Shakespeare's Henry V that has become popular courtesy of a Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks TV miniseries: "From this day to the ending of the world, we in it shall be remembered, we band of brothers."

It's a powerful passage of writing that goes some way to capturing the unique bond between soldiers that few can ever truly comprehend. In serving their country, men and women risk their lives for the greater good. This much is clear. As such, they understand war in a way that ordinary civilians simply cannot. Of course, as sad as it is, tragedy is inevitable. Soldiers are killed and injured in the line of duty… lest we forget.

Team True Spirit is a group of injured servicemen, backed up by a team of medical experts and ordinary folk and volunteers that have, fittingly, "banded together" to make a difference to their lives and those of others. With specific regards to the injured soldiers, the echo of comradeship in Henry V's speech reverberates in their enclave and defines the collective experience that binds them together.

Founded last year, this cohort, true to its name, began an arduous and ongoing programme of rehabilitation, which culminated in their successful participation in the gruelling Ironman UK triathlon. Composed of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile marathon, the event, which must be completed in an exigent 17 hours, is considered to be one of the toughest and most recognised endurance events in the world.

Their participation is threefold – to show that the human spirit is indestructible; raise awareness of the plight of injured servicemen and help them make the transition back to normal life; and raise invaluable donations for charities.

It was here that Zachary Wright, digital marketing manager at Cadogan Tate, a preeminent international moving, storage and shipping company, first came across Team True Spirit. An event that is already hard enough for able-bodied men and women, Zach, as he is known, was impressed, stirred and inspired by the fortitude, courage and supreme temperament of the team – along with the participation of his wife, who works with injured servicemen – that he felt compelled to get involved and raise awareness of the work they do.

He also discovered that others have been motivated by their herculean efforts. As such, this year will see Team True Spirit enter 71 competitors. However, this comes with logistical and financial challenges beyond their capacity. Because of the nature of some of their injuries, the athletes have a lot of equipment that needs transporting. Aware of this, Zach knew there was a solution – Cadogan Tate.

When putting the idea to his bosses, Zach was met with instant approval, resulting in Cadogan Tate, which has also cut a reputation as an expert in handling fine art, being named as the Official Logistics Partner of Team True Spirit.

"I expected to have to pitch on where the business could expect a return on providing support," he added. "I was barely 20 seconds into my pitch before both Jonathan Hood (group managing director) and Rohan Masson Taylor (founder and chairman) had pledged the company's full support."

While Zach has been busy cutting his mustard getting into shape, Cadogan Tate has been responsible for working out the exact details of safely transporting fragile carbon fibre bikes and other equipment that will be used by the competitors during the course of the triathlon. It will be providing vehicles and drivers, as well as the expertise that goes into handling expensive and delicate objects.

"I don't think I've ever felt the responsibility of moving anything so keenly," he noted. "Unless I had 100 per cent confidence in the company's capabilities, I could never have approached Team True Spirit to offer our logistics support. Too much is riding on this."

With this peace of mind, since January, Zach, like his teammates, has been focusing on following a strict fitness regime, which usually starts at around five in the morning, continues with a cycle into work and culminates in more training in the evening.

As demanding as it is, he is enthused to push himself to the limit, knowing that many of the soldiers he will be completing the challenge with are putting themselves through the same exercises, in spite of the fact that many of them have lost one, two or three limbs in combat in Afghanistan, while others have suffered equally debilitating injuries. Spirit? This team has plenty of it, and then some.

Last year was seminal for another reason – it was the first time that Ironman UK had allowed such a large number of injured people to participate. It does come with a certain stipulation however, which is that each injured participant must have an able-bodied helper with them.

Zach, now a fully-fledged member of the team, has been paired up with Colonel David Richmond CBE, who served in the army for 25 years. He now works for Help for Heroes in running their network of four recovery centres at Tidworth, Colchester, Catterick and Plymouth. Injured in Afghanistan in 2008, he spent three and a half years building back his right leg at Headley Court, a rehabilitation centre for wounded members of the British Armed Forces.

Although the geographical difference between Zach and Col Richmond has made it hard for the duo to train together as often as they would like, they have, nevertheless, through regular communication, spurred each other on.

"Due to having major surgery the month before last year’s race I could only support the team and what an emotional day that was!" Col Richmond has said. "This year, no matter how hard I looked, I couldn’t find the word 'no' in my dictionary and frankly hell will freeze over before I don’t take part in July."

That is the kind of personality that defines what Team True Spirit is all about. Anything is impossible, even against all the odds, the true definition of human spirit. Like how Vince Lombardi, the famous American Football coach, saw it, the will to win and the will to excel are things that endure: "These qualities are so much more important than the events that occur."

"Team True Spirit challenged my own limiting beliefs and showed me that anything is possible with enough grit and determination," reflected Zach. "The nation owes them a great debt, not only for their sacrifice in the service of our country but for all they continue to do to inspire."

The event takes place in Bolton, Lancashire, July 22nd 2012. For more information on Team True Spirit please visit www.truespirit.org.uk. If you’d like to make a donation please visit http://www.justgiving.com/Zachary-Wright

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