1 November 2021

Aaron Williamson’s story is about turning negatives into positives. After suffering a serious bike crash in 2016 that left him unable to walk, the Cantabrian embarked on a long journey of recovery that has brought him to the precipice of one of his toughest challenges yet, the TUMMiler, the Tarawera Ultramarathon’s 100-mile race.

On 2 April 2016, Aaron was competing in a New Zealand Army cycling competition as a part of the GrapeRide in Marlborough when he was struck by another rider, throwing him off his bike onto the road and rendering him unconscious.

“I’ve been told that I slid across the road head-first into a bank and ended up on my back with my torso in a ditch and pelvis and legs facing back down the road,” said Aaron. “Whilst lying on the road my pelvic area was run over several times before another New Zealand Army rider, who was a little behind us at the time of the accident, stopped to render first aid.”

Waking up in Blenheim’s Wairau Hospital Emergency Department, Aaron says he has no recollection of what had happened to him.

“The doctor began to explain that I had been knocked off my bike and run over several times. At the same time, they were examining me and I couldn’t feel anything in a lot of instances aside from parts of my torso and face.”

Reeling from the shock and stress of his accident Aaron felt helpless and alone, worrying if he would suffer permanent damage and might never walk again.

“Learning to walk again as an adult is a strange thing and on top of that, I had gone from fit and healthy to broken and using a walking frame,” said Aaron.

Aaron’s recovery journey took the better part of two years and involved several surgeries, a constant supply of pain medication and raft of doctor’s appointments. His situation felt bleak, and he struggled physically and mentally throughout this time resulting in his resignation from the Army.

“I tended to blame others when in fact it was me being defeatist and not taking ownership of my situation, that was the real issue,” said Aaron. “I sat at home for a year not doing much, lacking the motivation and drive to do anything.”

Despite these struggles, things started looking up for Aaron after meeting his future wife, Charlene, in hospital. After they got married and had their first child, Hunter, Aaron felt he could no longer tell himself excuses for his situation.

Aaron set himself a goal of re-joining the New Zealand Army but knew he would have to prove he was physically capable of continuing service, given his medical status when he resigned.

An opportunity arose to join three other serving Officers as part of a team for an adventure race. Despite a limited build up to the event, Aaron was able to complete the gruelling race and was part of one of the few teams to complete all stages.

“I arrived at the start line feeling very sick and nervous, but at the same time I had already won at that point just by making it to the start line. Perspective is everything,” said Aaron.

A week later Aaron was back in the New Zealand Army where he is currently still serving.

Aaron’s determination to keep setting himself new challenges and achieve new things in life brought about the decision to attempt the 100-mile distance at the Tarawera Ultramarathon in 2022.

“Many people I know have competed in the Tarawera Ultramarathon in various distances and I have always held the thought of tackling it. For me however, it is the Miler that draws me to it,” said Aaron. “I don’t know if I can go the distance or meet my own expectations, but my reason for entering the Miler is simple, I need to answer the questions I have and not make excuses as I had done previously.

“No matter which distance you think of running, if you have thought about it then you are 90% of the way to success. The rest is stepping across the start line.”