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Local strongman Dave Johnson will host his biggest fundraising event yet when he takes on his next charity challenge – the Lincolnshire truck push/pull championships. Dave, 42, started his charity challenges when an old friend, Mark Browne was diagnosed with terminal cancer back in 2010. Mark sadly passed away.
Lincoln boy Ethan Maull, who passed away in 2014, is also honoured by Dave’s feats. This year’s event is all about raising money for a terminally ill young man, Joshua Bilton, who has Williams syndrome and wishes to tick off a bucket list including going to Disneyland. Doctors said there is no treatment that can save him, but he has a wish list of places and things to see and do that he dreams about.
Now, Dave is putting his strength to the test to raise money and honour the memories of some more men who have passed away: Andy Naylor who died last year in a traffic accident, Steve Green lost his battle with cancer, and Damian Buckle, who passed following a motorbike accident almost a year ago, and is described by Dave “as close as family”.
Joshua has a rare genetic condition which has left him with terminal heart issues.
Eleven women and 36 men will be pushing and pulling trucks, and amongst them are national-level competitors including Lindsey Nearn, and Nicki Walters who has three Guinness world records. Vikki Mills, who has been on a weight loss journey and raises mental health awareness, and Stacey Marriot who runs the night cafes for those with mental health problems, will also be participating. The men’s category includes Mark Anglesea, a twice Guinness world record holder, and said by Dave to be a “legend in his own right amongst the strongman community”.
Dave Thornton, who is around 24 stone and 6 foot 5 inches tall, is described by Dave Johnson as “one of the best truck pullers in the country”, while Simon Knowles has taken part in many competitions including last year’s Arnold’s Amateur Strongman. Dave Johnson added that there are others competing who are “total monsters”, whiles some of Damian Buckle’s family and friends are also taking part to honour his memory.
Dave pulled a Lancaster bomber back in 2015 | Photo: The Lincolnite After hitting the decade milestone, Dave is still passionate about raising money for good causes.
Dave told The Lincolnite: “Essentially it started off with just me doing solo challenges; now it’s a competition. It’s probably going to be horrendous. “It’s more than just pulling: the women will be pushing a 7.5 tonne truck 20 metres and then there’s a 15 tonne truck they will be pulling 20 metres and the quickest one wins.
“The men will push a 15 tonne truck and pull a 27 tonne truck, which is the same concept again: 20 metres timed, and the quickest time will be the winner.” A 40 tonne (just for fun!) truck is available for both teams to try and move at the finale. Dave added: “It’s going to trip a few people up – if the weather’s like this it isn’t going to be fun.”
Dave in action pulling a tractor at one of his strongman challenge events | Photo: The Lincolnite
Last year where it was opened up for a competition there were 18 people in it. Now, the formidable set of contestants are paying to take part whereas the show will be free for spectators. Whatever proceeds are left from the bookings will go to Joshua’s bucket list, who couldn’t make it last year due to health complications. Local bareknuckle boxer Nathan Decastro is also coming down to meet Joshua.
On how it feels to have been fundraising for 11 years, Dave said: “I didn’t know how it would go when it started – it just makes sense to carry on. I said to Mark when I started it I would carry on doing it as long as I was physically fit. It’s probably earned GBP19-20,000 for charity.” The memory of Mark keeps him motivated as well as the people who take part in his events.
He added: “There’s no way I can win it as they are national level people, I’ve invited some monsters down for it.”
Dave competing, this time stone-lifting | Photo: The Lincolnite Dave also said he’s trying to raise awareness for mental health, adding: “Other contestants are raising money for their own causes – it’s an honourable thing – ten or fifteen of them are raising money by doing some ‘stupid’ things. Everything’s ready we’ve got the trucks and venues at Flying Hire and the ground’s flat so you either pull it or you don’t, there’s no in between.
“You have to get yourself into a mental zone to do this, there’s a lot of emotion in it – it’s an emotional thing I’m invested in since day one with Mark (Browne), you just have to channel your emotions into it. “Mark worked until he couldn’t work any longer. He was there for his family all the way.
I wanted to create something, in my mind, what he would have had to go through.
Pulling a truck is not comfortable and it’s not nice, but we’re still going to be here after it, but he’s not.”
Dave is a care worker for ‘Aspire’ which helps people with learning difficulties and he also does personal training. He is is taking part in another event in the Peak District later in the year, which will include stone-throwing, amongst other challenges.
Impressive strongman/woman performances are promised on July 30