An ex-RAF pilot paralysed from the neck down following a freak swimming accident in Mexico will compete in his tenth 10k run.
Jerry Ward survived 33 combat missions in the Gulf War, flew a Lancaster bomber for the Battle of Britain Memorial flight and had a successful career as a commercial pilot.
But his flying career was cruelly cut short in 2007 when he broke his neck in a freak accident in Cancun when a wave knocked him off his feet.
However, since the accident he has defied medics who said he would be on a ventilator for the rest of his life.
The courageous father of two, 58, has competed in nine 10k races in a wheelchair and will compete in his tenth at the Great Manchester run this weekend.
Jerry, from Hartford, Cheshire., had been on duty enjoying some time off before flying people back from Cancun to Manchester when the life-changing accident happened.
Jerry said: “I would have never have thought that taking a swim in the sea would change my life forever.
“As I started to walk out from the sea I was hit from behind by a big wave, the impact of which knocked me face flat in the water causing a huge compression injury to my spine.
“I was left face down in the water with a broken neck, unable to move anything apart from my mouth.
“I tried to shout for help, but all the sound was muffled by the water and it meant I started to struggle more.
“By the time I was pulled out of the water by some passers-by on the beach, I was unconscious.
“My life did, quite literally flash before my eyes just like it says in the books.”
Jerry’s wife Jane and his two children, Rachel, 28, and Sam, 25, rushed over to Mexico to be by his side – ironically in the aircraft, he was due to fly home just two days later.
Jerry said: “It was a tough time for us all, but I was determined not to let the fact I am restrained to a wheelchair slow me down.
“When I first told doctor’s of my plan to take part in the Great Manchester run they all thought I’d gone mad.
“But I was determined and wanted to show my kids you can do anything if you put your mind to it, and they’ve both done just that with their degrees and the lives they lead now.”
Just six months later Jerry was in his chair along with team of eight pushing him in his first Manchester 10km.
They even managed to cover the first km in six minutes which is significantly faster than Jerry managed to run it the previous year.
Jerry said: “I was determined to stay active and one of the first things I wanted to do was the Great Manchester run.
“I had taken part six months before my accident and I loved the thrill of it all so I knew I had to find a way to do it again, even if my consultant originally thought it was a bad idea.
“I have now completed it nine times in a wheelchair and this weekend will be my tenth which I am really proud of.”
This weekend, Jerry will be pushed by his son and his girlfriend along with four other volunteers.
He said: “It will be the first time I am meeting some of my pushers which is comical.
“But I am sure we will all have a good laugh, which is what I do it for really.
“The organisers do a great job making sure me and others like me with disabilities to take part, it’s always a great day.”
Jerry will be taking part this year to raise money for various spinal injury charities, Aspire, Spinal Injury Association and Back-up Trust and is halfway to achieving his £5000 target.