From injury in Iraq to World’s Strongest Disabled Man

Watching Mac McLaren lift huge weights in the gym over and over and over again, you know there’s something special about him. And that steely look of determination, the focus on being the best he can be and a never-give-up attitude has now won the former soldier a world championship title. Mac training on the log press by adding weight and reps at Bulk’s Gym

The 44-year-old, who trains in Gravesend, has not let his disability stop him but instead it has spurred him on, and he is now the World’s Strongest Disabled Man 2021 in his category after success at the international strongman competition in Iceland. Now he is encouraging others to try their hand at the sport after competing against other inspiring athletes.

He said: “We can do stuff that able-bodied people can do. We do not look at something and think we cannot lift that, we look at how we can lift that.

We adapt everything to our abilities. It is so incredible. “We have disabled people watching the competitions and I say ‘get to a gym and try’.

You might have a disability but do not let it stop you. “I like to say it will always be part of me but it does not define me.”

Mac McLaren at Bulk's Gym Mac McLaren at Bulk’s Gym

Royal Highland Fusilier Mac was injured in Iraq in 2003. He was running for cover when his right leg rotated the wrong way.

He was medically discharged from the army in 2005 as his leg never fully recovered and he had been left with immense neuro pain.

His leg has since deteriorated and he is planning to have it amputated next year, a huge step in his strongman career as he says he will have to relearn his balance and how to lift with only one leg – and then do it all again with a prosthetic. Mac, who is originally from Glasgow, explained: “My leg has just deteriorated over the years. I am getting rid of it to let me move on.

I have made my peace with it.” He tells of the “humbling” experience of competing in Iceland last month amongst other disabled athletes including men and women who fall into different categories depending on their impairment.

Mac McLaren (middle) at the World's Strongest Man competition. Picture: Mac McLaren @tartan_warrior_strongman Mac McLaren (middle) at the World’s Strongest Man competition. Picture: Mac McLaren @tartan_warrior_strongman

“Everybody is so amazing within strongman. I never think I am better than anyone else,” said Mac. “It is amazing for me to compete with such inspiring people.”

Mac, of Maidstone Road, Wigmore, won all five of the events at the World’s Strongest Disabled Man 2021 in the Seated 2 category. His achievements include a dead lift of 230kg, a log press of 80kg, a farmer’s hold of 88kg (44kg in each hand) for one minute 55 seconds, a truck pull of 2.5 tons over 12 metres in 16 seconds and an atlas stone lift at 50kg, 70kg, 85kg and 100kg. He said: “By the fourth event I had secured the win.

I said to my coach, Jay, I want all five wins. I was clear of the person in second, I think I had double the points. “It is my first ever worlds.

It is so weird. I have only been competing for a year but I have gone into every event and done the best I can and not worried about anyone else.

Mac McLaren at the Arnold's competition. Picture: Mac Mclaren @tartan warrior strongman Mac McLaren at the Arnold’s competition. Picture: Mac Mclaren @tartan warrior strongman

“I have done what Jay has trained me to do and just hoped that it was enough. “I am not a huge one for ‘all look at me’.

I always appreciate everybody that takes part.” Mac was joined in Iceland by his coach Jay Hughes who, alongside his partner Emmy, owns Bulks Gym in Dering Way, Gravesend, where Mac credits most of his success. “I got into it on a whim.

I grew up watching strongman on the TV at Christmas. I am so thankful for a gym like Bulks. You do not get that kind of support at bigger ones.

“I am a disabled athlete and they adapt everything to suit, whatever I needed they made it suit.

The support and help they give me here I do not get it in any other gyms.”

Bulk's Gym in Dering Way, Gravesend Bulk’s Gym in Dering Way, Gravesend

Mac trains at the gym three times a week for around two to three hours a day, and plays wheelchair rugby in Hatfield at the weekends.

In his short career Mac has come second at the Britain’s Strongest Disabled Man 2021 competition in Somerset, second at the Disabled Strongman at The UK’s first Arnold’s Sports festival 2021 in Birmingham and set a new world record in the seated atlas stones where he lifted 110kg.