Max’s Road to Recovery – from horror bike crash to age group world championships
Being a physiotherapist brings immense satisfaction as I witness the success stories of my patients, regardless of whether my role was significant or minor. Today, I want to share the inspiring journey of Max Campbell.
Max discovered his passion for running at the age of 49 in 2013 and rapidly progressed to become an elite athlete. He competed in three full Ironman competitions from 2014 to 2018, representing Team GB at the European and World championships for Duathlon, achieving impressive 12th and 13th place finishes in his age group, respectively.
However, in September 2020, Max's life took a drastic turn during a bike ride with his training partners. Due to poor road conditions, he had a severe accident, coming off his bike at a speed of 30mph. The accident left him with a fractured skull at the front and back, bleed on the brain, a three-part fractured collarbone, and a dislocated shoulder. Max was in critical care for two days to monitor his brain bleed. After three days, he returned home, unable to undergo immediate surgery for his collarbone due to the protocol of waiting three months until he can be put under anaesthetic after a brain bleed. Unfortunately, this delay led to the development of adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder), greatly impacting his mobility.
Despite these debilitating injuries, Max demonstrated tremendous resilience. Even while in a sling, he managed to cycle on an indoor bike during the three-month wait for his operation. In October, just one month after the accident, he cycled a total of 12km. He continued to push himself and achieved 179km in November and an impressive 342km in December. Finally, in February 2021, he underwent successful surgery on his collarbone which required a titanium plate. Max then began his physiotherapy at Spire in Harpenden in March, and by April 2021, he joyfully ran for the first time in eight months.
By January 2022, Max made a comeback to competition. However, after 16 months of recovery, he had experienced a significant loss of fitness, gained weight, and felt far from the athlete who once competed at an international level. During our treatments together, he reflected on his disappointing performance at the Herts XC event in January 2022, which cast doubts on his ability to regain his former competitive prowess. He even contemplated giving up on competing altogether.
Instead of succumbing to despair, Max took proactive steps to turn things around. He partnered with Rich Evans for a training plan to break the 20-minute barrier for a 5km run. Additionally, he adopted a diet and strength program called the Six Pack Revolution, focusing on eliminating processed foods from his diet.
Max encountered tibialis posterior tightness from transitioning to zero-drop running shoes, hindering his running progress. With a few sports massage treatments, together we overcome this obstacle and he soon returned to his training plan. By March, he had shed 8kg and was just two minutes away from his previous half-marathon time, while also achieving a sub-20-minute 5km run.
Over the following six months, Max's progress continued to soar as he achieved personal best times in 5km, 10km, and 10-mile races. In October, he participated in the Team GB Olympic distance Duathlon Qualifier for the World Championships in Ibiza 2023, securing a remarkable 4th place finish. This competition marked his first bike race since the accident in 2020. Furthermore, he competed in the qualifier race for the Sprint distance Duathlon World Championships and earned a commendable 3rd place spot.
And then, in April of this year, the pinnacle of his redemption story arrived. Max competed in the Olympic distance Duathlon World Champs in Ibiza, finishing 7th in his age group... in the world.
I find Max's journey inspiring, showcasing resilience, determination, and the ability to overcome challenges. Playing a part and experiencing the incredible transformations people can make is undeniably one of the most rewarding aspects of being a physiotherapist.
"My view James on what has been instrumental in success is protein based, v low sugar nutrition (minimal processed food), focused training (no junk miles), balance of training between disciplines, core strength fitness, good coaches with great understanding and advice, and of course remaining injury free through regular massage every 4-6 weeks.
You have been a huge help and inspiration to me James, giving me good advice on those Speed Endurance Interval runs, the mental side (which I had no idea was so important) and most of all making me believe!"
- Max Campbell
Thanks Max for sharing your story, and I look forward to experiencing many other people's success stories in the future.