Her epic challenge will culminate in her becoming only the second female ever to complete the London Marathon using a non-sport wheelchair
Former nurse and Army veteran amputee Lexi Alyx Chambers is determined to show that disabilities can’t stop you from breaking world records by embarking on the biggest challenge of her life. The 44-year-old, of Exeter, has committed to complete seven events – two triathlons, three half marathons and two marathons – in just seven months using her normal everyday non-sport wheelchair.
As well as her mobility problems after she was amputated below the knee, Lexi has two chronic pain conditions – chronic regional pain syndrome (CRPS) and fibromyalgia. It means she spends all of her time in ‘excruciating pain’ and cannot wear a prosthetic leg for very long.
Lexi’s health problems began nine years ago when she had routine surgery to correct hammer toes, a deformity where a toe is bent at the middle joint. Her feet began to hurt when she ran as a soldier in the Army and it eventually forced her to leave.
Following the operation, she developed CRPS, a poorly understood condition where a person experiences persistent severe and debilitating pain. Lexi said: “It is the most painful condition known to humankind. It basically feels like your leg is on fire all of the time.”
After nine more surgeries, Lexi eventually elected to have her left leg amputated below the knee three years ago and has been wheelchair dependent ever since. It forced very early retirement from her career as an NHS registered nurse at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.
Lexi recalled: “I eventually opted for the amputation to try to get rid of the pain. Unfortunately, my CRPS a rare condition, yet stubborn, quickly returned to my stump. It meant I could not wear a prosthetic for very long.
“Then followed two neuromas, a further two surgeries, a seven-week stay in hospital and then fibromyalgia. Over time, I became more and more wheelchair dependent and now am a full-time wheelchair user.
“Prior to all of this, I was very active and used to participate in many sports. I had aspirations of competing as an age group triathlete for team GB and dreamt of completing a marathon one day and even climbing Mount Everest.
“When the realisation came that wearing a prosthesis would be limited, let alone running in one, I had to think outside the box and re-evaluate my life. Despite my new restrictions, I was determined to fulfill my goals and dreams, and so last year I began wheeling along Exeter quayside, where I live, using my ordinary non-sport wheelchair, and Quickie Argon 2.
“It took a while, but eventually I began to build up strength in new areas and saw the miles building up. Since my amputation three years ago, Blesma, a charity for limbless veterans like myself, has been by my side.
“They have helped me adjust to life as an amputee, and find a new source of independence. They provided driving lessons, mobility aids, and even a set of wheels for my wheelchair.
“They arranged counselling which helped my mental health and placed me on a specialist pain course for veterans, which provided alternative ways of dealing with the high level of pain I suffer. In short, Blesma has been my saviour.”
To mark the charity’s 90th anniversary, Lexi has decided to give something back to them for all they have done for her and her family by attempting to raise at least £5,000. Her epic challenge will culminate on Sunday, October 2, in her becoming only the second female ever to complete the London Marathon using a non-sport wheelchair.
Lexi began her challenge on Sunday, May 15, with the Exmouth Triathlon. The following weekend she completed The Great West Run half marathon in Exeter.
She said: “I will be completing seven events in total leading up to this all using my everyday non-sport wheelchair and handbike for the cycle parts of the triathlons. The events are all firsts for me.
“At two of these events, the Bridgewater half marathon and London Marathon, I also hope to set two new world records, pending Guinness World Record approval, for the fastest female to complete a half and full marathon using a non-sport wheelchair.
“By achieving these events, along with raising awareness of Blesma and raising much-needed funds, my hope is to inspire other people to realise that anything is possible. I wish to show that no matter what life throws at you, you can still realise your dreams.
“I want to show that disability does not always mean the end of sport, or your dreams; it can actually become the beginning of new ones.”
“The events so far have been extremely challenging but wonderful. I received so much support from the crowds. These events are all firsts for me. All firsts using a non-sport wheelchair and handbike for the triathlon cycle part.
“The triathlon was very difficult. The hill on the cycle part was never-ending. There was almost 4km of a continuous steep hill which is hard on a normal bike, but exceptionally difficult using just your arms on a handbike.
“By the time I got to the run, or in my case, wheel, it was very windy with torrential rain. Then off-roading in my wheelchair through each transition was tough. But despite all this, it was amazing.
“The Great West Run I knew would be the toughest out of all the seven events, basically because of the sheer quantity of hills. Most of the course is hills. The downhills were so great and I was able to make up some time on those, but the uphills were very long and steep, especially the university hill which is a gradient I’ve never encountered before.
“I was slow, but I made it. The crowd were exceptional. They encouraged me the whole way. I’ve never experienced anything so joyous.
“It was incredibly hard and probably the most physically taxing thing I’ve ever done – and I was in the Army. Basically, it’s like doing full bodyweight dips for two hours 40 minutes, over and over again.
“But I made it through and loved every second. Now I’m having a few days off before training commences towards my next event in five weeks – the Plymouth Rehabilitation Triathlon. I am also beginning to increase the milage in training towards marathon distance.”
The events Lexi has left to complete are:
June 23 – Plymouth Rehabilitation Triathlon
July 4 – Cardiff Summer Half Marathon
September 4 – Bridgewater Half Marathon
September 25 – Goodwood marathon
October 2 – London Marathon
To donate to Lexi’s fundraiser please visit https://blesma.enthuse.com/pf/lexi-chambers-799fb/post/1322985