Tony's amazing story of overcoming adversity

Imagine this, you are slowly drifting in and out of consciousness, everything is black, you feel like you are locked in a cage and you can’t move your body. As you slowly come around you are trying to figure out where you are and what has happened to you but you just don’t know. It’s frightening. You pry your eyes open and see a white roof above you but you can’t seem to move your head.  

This experience is what Tony Herring went through just over 2 years ago. In an unfortunate accident he broke his neck, at that point his entire life changed in a second.

After finally regaining consciousness he was made aware of how serious his condition was, he had a big journey in front of him and it wasn’t clear what the outcome would be. For three months he was bed bound and his head was in a cage-like device that kept his neck still.  During his recovery he had a lot of time to contemplate and to think about his life, what did this accident mean? Would it restrict his life or would he use it as an experience to grow as a person. The seesaw of emotions was hard to manage. Can you imagine not being able to use your physical body for three months, your thoughts as your only day to day constant companion, and to be in a place where there is so much uncertainty about your future.

Fortunately for Tony he had an amazing team of medical professionals around him who did a phenomenal job of getting him back on his feet, literally, and he recovered well. It is around this time that I got a call from Tony. 

‘Hi Bevan, I’d love to catch up to have a talk about doing an Ironman’ was his first sentence. I knew of his accident so my gut feeling was ‘is this guy crazy?’. When we met for a coffee to have a chat Tony started telling me about the last few months, how he decided that his accident had to have some greater meaning, how he had to use it as a trigger to grow as a person. 

Tony is a very driven man, he’s a successful lawyer who sets high standards for himself. He prides himself on maintaining a high level of commitment to his goals so as we were talking there was no doubt in my mind that Tony would one day be doing an Ironman. The challenge for me was how I was going to manage his body through some of the hardest training that any sport can present to someone. For someone who not long ago was bed bound and unable to walk. I signed up as his coach and the journey began.  

Over the next 20 months Tony continued to impress me with his commitment to achieving his goal. He developed skills in the disciplines of this sport, his physical ability grew, and his mental ability strengthened as he faced some very tough days of training. But what impressed me most about Tony was his ability to get back up when he had been knocked down. 

The journey to the finish line in an Ironman is one of the hardest physical challenges a human can face. As we progressed through Tony’s training it was like there was an external force that was trying to make it harder for him. In his 20 months of training there were rough patches. He didn’t finish his first triathlon as when he was in the water being beaten around by lots of people he had a panic attack and he pulled out. Then not long after that he had a bike accident and broke his collar bone. It was like something didn’t want Tony to finish his journey.  

Come race day Tony had the swim of his life, he got out of the water in a time that he was very proud of and once on his bike he experienced a blow to his chances of getting to the finish line - his bike seat broke! This setback would have mentally broken a lot of people, they would have thrown in the towel or it would have ruined their day. But not Tony, although it did mean that he lost valuable time it didn’t distract him from his end goal. After finally getting the seat fixed Tony pushed on to finish the bike section and he then ran the full marathon which ended in him crossing the finish line in his first Ironman. 

Tony is an amazing example of overcoming adversity. From waking up in that hospital bed, to not finishing his first triathlon, to his broken collar bone, and lastly his bike seat breaking. Tony had many reasons to not continue on but he did, I’m sure that as he crossed the finish line on his amazing journey the adversity he had overcame made the sense of achievement even sweeter. It made it all worth it. If you ask me that’s a good reason to keep getting up when you get knocked down. 


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Bevan Eyles