In 2014, Mark Bowra was at the pinnacle of his career.
He was a decorated officer in the UK Special Forces. He had tested himself in some of the most arduous environments. Life was frantic and dangerous, but it was what he had joined up to do. In the space of a few minutes all that was about to change. Mark suffered a major stroke whilst driving back from London that would lead him to be hospitalised for over a year.
To be so fit and active one moment and then be so reliant on others the next, truly tested his physical and mental well-being. Mark quickly realised that he could either give in to his condition or take it on as if it was yet another challenge.
Thankfully with the help of his family, friends and some very supportive charities including Help for Heroes, Mark is now back on his feet again with a greater determination to help others who may be similarly affected.
In 2016 and 2017, Mark was selected to take part in the Invictus Games, winning medals in swimming. Since then, he as dedicated himself to helping others. Mark established the Bowra Foundation in 2019, to inspire resilience amongst people suffering from neurological disorders through practical help and physical challenges alongside members of the Armed Forces community.
Building on his own experience recovering from stroke, Mark devised the Bowra Bag, a toolkit to aid rehabilitation, communication and independence for people suffering from a range of neurological disorders. The Bowra Foundation works with partners and healthcare practitioners to get Bowra Bags to those who need them at the earliest opportunity.
Mark has been training in anticipation of his greatest challenge yet, to cycle, swim, paddle and walk from John O'Groats to Lands End. The Bowra 1000 Challenge was scheduled for May-July 2020 and has been postponed due to the escalating COVID-19 crisis. Mark’s plan is to complete the challenge virtually and bring members of the Armed Forces community and people with neurological disorders along with him.
In doing so he is proving that no barriers need exist to those that are prepared to test themselves. At the closing ceremony of the Invictus Games in Sydney in 2018, Prince Harry referred to the spirit that exists amongst the veterans, that makes them so inspirational. He also mentioned that this 'brothers in arms, never give in' attitude is something that we can all aspire to.
Mark has now dedicated himself to helping others find their Invictus inner selves, by setting up the Bowra Foundation in which the motto, 'what's inside matters' has never been more appropriate.
when you accept a challenge is real, you can have hope. When you understand your vulnerability, you become strong. When you are brave enough to ask for help, you can be lifted up
HRH PRINCE HARRY
Inspiration | Achievement | Motivation
Mark designed the Bowra 1000 to demonstrate that with courage, determination and cheerfulness in the face of adversity anything is possible. It is no coincidence that these key elements of the Commando spirit have helped to create the DNA of the Bowra Foundation.
This was to be Mark’s greatest challenge since that terrible day in 2014 when he suffered a devastating stroke and was told he would never walk again. The Bowra 1000 would see him cycle, yomp, paddle and swim a 1000-mile route from John O’Groats to Land’s End, joined along the way by members of the Armed Forces Community, people living with neurological disorders and supporters keen to show that “what’s inside matters.”
Mark was gutted when COVID-19 restrictions made it impossible for him to get to the start line but, undaunted, he completed the challenge day by day, mile by mile in his local area and using loaned exercise equipment in his garage – AKA the Bowra Bunker.
The Virtual Bowra 1000 Challenge began on 3 June with more beneficiaries and supporters joining Mark as restrictions eased, and stretching the route towards completing the last legs on the original roads from Dartmoor, culminating in a triumphant arrival in Lands End on 11 July 2020.
The Bowra 1000 was our flagship activity in 2020 but it is just the beginning. To be the first to receive updates and details of upcoming activities, sign up below!
Learn more about the Bowra 1000
THE BOWRA BAG
Neurological rehabilitation in a bag
Inspiring an unrelenting pursuit of recovery
Whilst struggling with his recovery in hospital, Mark Bowra started to put together, in a rucksack, a number of items he was finding were helpful with exercising his muscles, mental recovery and daily tasks. Mark found these items played such a significant part in his early recovery that he made a successful application to Help For Heroes for funding to make additional bags. These were handed out to other veterans afflicted with neurological injuries. The feedback from that exercise showed the bags have significant merit - a major inspiration for Mark to set up the Bowra Foundation.
A major aim of this is to produce further “Bowra Bags” to present to NHS Trusts around the country in order to help as wide a group of brain injury patients as possible. The Bowra Bags are also the inspiration for the foundation’s mantra:
More info on the Bowra Bag
The Bowra Foundation is delighted to announce the launch of our new donation page. Virgin Money Giving allows our supporters to give on a one-off or monthly basis, directly through the link below.
So far they’ve helped over 18,000 UK charities and over 1 million fundraisers raise over £750 million online. They are run on a not-for-profit basis and we’re hoping they’ll help our small team maximise our work fulfilling Mark’s mission to inspire resilience amongst people with neurological disorders.