Braybrook amputee set to run his first half marathon

Photo: Luke Hemer

Darren Collins remembers it being a particularly wet and windy day when he broke his tibia and fibula bones clean in two.

The then 24-year-old was playing soccer.

He was positioned as goalkeeper and slid out to stop the ball.

“The opposition player slid towards me, a big rangy guy. The impact of him hitting me broke my shin guard and my leg,” he recalls.

The trauma of the injury led to chronic exceptional compartment syndrome, which causes pain, swelling and sometimes disability.

In Mr Collins’ case, his lower left leg ultimately required amputation.

The Braybrook resident describes life post-surgery as a “rollercoaster ride”.

“You go through so many stages; at first it was the disappointment of not being able to do that any more [soccer] … I didn’t have any counselling. I then split up with my wife.

“My outlook changed. I was just ambling through life without any sense of why I was doing anything.”

The turning point was meeting his New Zealander-born wife Zoë.

But Mr Collins says he “lost his way” [with his fitness] again after the arrival of the couple’s two children.

So the 41-year-old took matters into his own hands earlier this year, quit his job as an accountant to become a part-time motivational speaker and life coach, and a part-time chief financial officer for a government-funded health body.

“I realised I was doing lots of things for the wrong reasons. I want to set an example for other amputees and my kids, that when you set your mind to something its achievable.”

Despite not being a runner prior to his accident, Mr Collins set his mind on a half marathon in October, as well as three Spartan races this year.

Spartan races range between seven and 42 kilometres, and require racegoers to run through mud, swim dams, jump fires and climb ropes.

He says amputees aren’t disabled, “we’re adaptive athletes”, and he now views his broken leg as a blessing.

“It almost feels like a gift, I can now use it to raise money for people who need it.”

He’ll be running the Melbourne Marathon on October 16 to raise money for the Association for Children with a Disability.