Cateran Yomp

Injured War Veteran Marches to the Yomp!

A war veteran, who was told he would never walk again after being shot in Afghanistan, is walking from Carlisle to Blairgowrie to officially launch the Army Benevolent Fund’s Cateran Yomp.

Mark Harding (47), the Ambassador for this year’s event, was shot in the neck by a Taliban sniper in 2010 and left paralysed. Through courage, discipline, and teamwork, he is now able to walk with the use of crutches.

mark harding

Mark Harding. Supplied by Army Benevolent Fund.

The Cateran Yomp challenges soldiers, veterans, and civilians to march 22, 36, or 54 miles across the rugged terrain of the Perthshire countryside within 24 hours. Unable to walk the route in the stipulated 24 hours, Mark will instead walk around 10 miles each day, arriving at the launch event on the evening of Friday 7 June 2024.

Mark’s latest solo challenge comes just one year after he became the first person to walk from John O’Groats to Land’s End, an event which he says will ‘fuel’ his walk to Blairgowrie.  Mark has already raised more than £80,000 in total for military charities.

Supported by headline sponsor Babcock, more than 1,000 participants from as far as USA, Australia, Germany, Ukraine, Canada, Denmark and the EU will head off on the Cateran Trail in the foothills of the Cairngorm Mountains at 6am on Saturday 8 June 2024, returning to Blairgowrie in the early hours of Sunday 9 June. The event, which falls just two days after the 80th anniversary of D-Day, also coincides with the charity’s 80th anniversary.

Mark Harding

Mark, from Cumbria, served with the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment for 16 years, mostly as a sniper with the Reconnaissance platoon. His service included operational tours in Bosnia, Kosovo, Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2010, while leading a routine patrol in Afghanistan, Mark was shot by a Taliban sniper. Despite doctors’ predictions, Mark was determined to overcome his injuries and learn to walk again, a goal he achieved two and a half years later.

Mark said, “When I was lying in hospital for seven months, paralysed from the neck down, the Army Benevolent Fund stepped up and awarded a grant to convert my house, creating a downstairs bedroom, widening doors, and moving my garage which is now a gym. This was when my recovery, both physical and mental, really started.

“Since then, I’ve been determined to push the boundaries and give as much back to the charity as I can. After what they did for me, it’s the least I can do. It’s my way of giving back.  As I walk with my Army Benevolent Fund flag through the country roads to Blairgowrie, I’ll be hoping for as much attention as possible, to promote the charity and the event, drive donations and sign-ups for next year. Hopefully people will see me and think, if he can do it, I can, that no hurdle is unsurmountable.  And while I’ll be switching off and enjoying the scenery, this will also be a really personal challenge for me. I’ll be thinking about my many friends who were injured in service and whose families have gone through hard times.”

The Army Benevolent Fund also provided grants for training equipment to develop Mark’s love of kayaking. He went on to be selected for the GB Sprint Kayaking squad and has competed in countless additional fitness challenges all over the world, raising tens of thousands of pounds for the charity. He went on to win the ‘Inspiration’ category of the Soldiering On Awards 2023 in recognition of his fundraising and his courage in overcoming the serious injuries he sustained during service.

Since its launch, the Cateran Yomp has raised over £4M for the Army’s National Charity.   Last year’s event raised £300,000 for soldiers, veterans and their families, with 1200 participants travelling from across the UK and around the world. Looking to the future, the Cateran Yomp team hopes to raise £1M each year to match the growing need for support from soldiers, veterans and their families in Scotland.

As well as Babcock, this year’s event is sponsored by Arnold Clark.

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