A gambling addict who turned his life around through distance running has pushed himself through the pain barrier to complete an amazing fundraising challenge.
Web developer Antony Smith, of Little Sutton, spent this year trying to run 1,000 miles in aid of the mental health charity Mind.
The 29-year-old, who racked up gambling debts of almost £36,000 before kicking his habit in 2015 and ploughing all his energy into running, picked up a couple of bad injuries late in the year and thought he may never reach the magical 1,000-mile mark.
But he gritted his teeth – and ignored the advice of his physio – to make sure he got there, though it was a gruelling effort.
Antony was determined to finish his charity challenge as he was running for his younger sister Keira, 27, who has experienced issues with her mental health in the past.
Antony, who went on a repayment plan two years ago and is now close to clearing all his gambling debts, said: “My whole running story is about not giving up.
“I didn’t give up when I faced my gambling addiction, my sister didn’t give up when she faced her mental health battle and the Mind charity won’t give up.
“I couldn’t give up and I didn't. And for that, I’m absolutely buzzing.”
Antony's injury problems became a major issue last month.
As of November 13, the Ellesmere Port Running Club member had 135.52 miles left to run in 48 days – almost three miles a day – and had no idea when a nagging groin problem was going to let up.
Antony's physio assessed the injury and told him he should stop running altogether so it could heal.
But Antony said: “I told her I had to finish it my way. Though I'm sure she wanted to beat some sense in to me and see me do the sensible thing, she said she admired my determination and knew I was going to finish it regardless so would help get me through it.”
Antony bravely whittled the remaining miles down over the following few weeks but then he started to experience problems with his left shin, meaning he was waking up in pain every day and finished one run in tears.
“I thought my body was just too weak to handle it and I'd have to find something else to do,” said Antony, who then had a heart-to-heart with his girlfriend Hanna.
He resolved to carry on with the challenge even though the sensible option would have been to stop.
“I was going to be in pain no matter what, so the best thing I could do was get it finished as quickly as possible,” he said.
He chipped away at the miles before ending his challenge with an incredible final push in the last fortnight, clocking 42.85 miles one week before running 51.48 the next – his highest weekly mileage of 2017.
“As I heard the beep on my girlfriend's watch when were doing the final run – signifying that we’d run the requisite number of miles to have completed the challenge.
“I actually threw my arms up in the air in triumph,” said Antony, who completed the challenge with two weeks to spare.
Antony spent several years gambling heavily but, after kicking the habit in 2015, he focused on getting fit and running. He underwent counselling for his addiction.
He decided to run in aid of good causes and has so far raised £1,750 for Mind (including Gift Aid) via his 1,000-mile challenge. His next test will see him tackle the London Marathon next year, in aid of the Hospice of the Good Shepherd in Backford.
Anyone wishing to donate can do so at: www.justgiving.com/fundra ising/antony-runs-london.