Dean Close has hosted a number of Lectures this year aimed at providing inspiration and encouragement for young people in Cheltenham.

For the third and final Iris Long Lecture in this year’s programme we were delighted to welcome Chris Moon, a man who opened his talk by telling us he should not be alive after some of the ordeals he has gone through. This statement obviously captured the curiosity of his audience as he went on to talk about his remarkable life story and how he has consistently overcome incredible odds in some of the most dangerous places in the world.

Firstly he recounted how when working for a charity, clearing land mines in Cambodia, he was ambushed and captured by the Khmer Rouge. His strategy for survival was in refusing to act like a victim and after three days he had negotiated himself, and his two colleagues, out of execution having been stood before the General who held the rubber stamp to seal his fate.

A couple of years later he went to Mozambique to continue his work in clearing mines but was dealt another tough challenge when blown up whilst walking through a ‘cleared’ area. He was airlifted by helicopter to a hospital in South Africa, 17 hours away, and stunned doctors when he arrived alive having sustained such terrible injuries. He lost both his lower right leg and right arm but his sheer determination and insurmountable will to succeed meant he was out of hospital three and half weeks later and, even more miraculously, competed in the London Marathon less than one year after this appalling accident.

Not to be content with this he has since competed in dozens of marathons and was the first leg amputee to complete the 250km Great Sahara Run described as the toughest footrace on earth. Chris told us in his talk that he hit a brick wall on the last day with 14km left to go. His body was completely spent so he dug deep to think what was achievable at that point – and that was to take one step. It was the ‘one step’ mentality which took him the full 14km to the finish line.

Throughout the talk, Chris spoke with great energy, punctuating everything he said with his unbendable believe in positive thinking. At the end he opened up to Q&A with some great questions from his teenage audience such as: how easy was it to become left handed (having lost his right hand), what song did he use to spur himself on in his physical challenges, and was he still in touch with the General in the Khmer Rouge who released him?

For an insight into Chris’s experiences, and more importantly his survival techniques, his book ‘One Step Beyond’ is a recommended read.