Anthony Bryan: From a child with a brain tumor to gold-medal runner


Runner Anthony Bryan originally shared his story with Yoocan, a global collaborative community where people with disabilities share experiences and knowledge — so that no one feels alone. Yoocan and Why We Play are a natural match and overlap in the most important thing for our community INSPIRATION. FanSided is excited to partner with Yoocan and share some of their stories on our website — exciting and fantastic sports stories from people with disabilities. Come check out more of our joint material, and keep following for collaborations!

On April 3, 1996, I was diagnosed with a benign Astrocytoma brain tumor and had to undergo a craniotomy operation to remove it. I was six years old at the time. Post survey it became evident that I had suffered a stroke during surgery which resulted in left-sided hemiplegia and left-sided field defect. At the hospital, doctors noticed my face had dropped on one side and I couldn’t clench my fist or walk on my left leg.

This meant that I lost the use of my left side and I had to learn to carry out everyday tasks with just one hand. My visual field was also affected and we realized I could not see objects on my left side either. My vision is very much like a horse in a race that has blinkers over their face, so my vision requires me to move my head in order to see (tunnel vision).

I went from being a happy, energetic sporty child to the total opposite. I remember feeling confused and upset as I struggled to make sense as to what was happening to my body. After months of intensive physiotherapy, I eventually returned to school, but everything felt alien to me.

I was unable to run around or keep up with my friends. Teachers were also fussing over me, insisting that I needed help and support which I personally hated. At lunchtime, I was not allowed to go out and play for fear of banging my head. I would sit at the window staring out watching all my friends playing football and wishing I could be out there too! Part of me wished that I hadn’t survived the operation; everything became too hard to bear. But with support from school, family and friends, I gained in strength and slowly my confidence started to return.

One of my strengths is my resilience in life — for me, quitting is not an option. I never give up on believing. When I turned 18, I developed an interest in running and competed in 100m and 200m in competitions around the country. I was then invited to compete at the London Olympic stadium for the Paralympic trials but unfortunately finished just outside of qualification for 2012.

My running coach encouraged me to consider longer distances such as 800m and 1500m, which at the time felt like a million miles to me, but I gave it a go. At the beginning, It was extremely hard on the body, but I persevered and eventually, my times increased.

In 2015 my biggest achievement was being selected to represent England at the Cerebral Palsy World Games. I won two gold medals. I was pretty nervous before the race but I had to just give it everything I had! I had put in the hard training and just had to believe in myself. I ended up running two huge PBs in those races knocking off four seconds on my 800m time finishing with 2 mins 40 and in the 1500m knocking off eight seconds — finishing with 5 mins 50. The feeling after those races and smashing my PBs is probably one of the best feelings I have ever felt! You are on such a high! This was far beyond what I thought I could ever achieve.

After the World Games, I had this new sense of belief in myself and thought: can I push myself further!? Can I get that buzzing feeling again? I looked up running races around London and came across 5k and 10k runs. I had never run this far before but I thought I would give it a go and see what I could do. It was extremely difficult! My weaker side really started to struggle as I got halfway through the 10k but with perseverance, I managed to keep going and finished with a time of 55 minutes.

I then thought to myself if I can run this far with no training! How much further and faster can I go!? So I decided to do extra training sessions and put the work in. I have now managed to improve my PBs in both the 5k and 10k to 22:55 in the 5k and 48:18 in the 10k.

Even though I am normally the only runner with a physical disability I am always made to feel very welcome even from other runners cheering me on as we run along during the race. I hope to be a role model to others to motivate and inspire others to do and achieve more too! Because IF I CAN DO IT SO CAN YOU!

I now document my training in the gym and on the track via Instagram, Facebook and more recently YouTube. I hope it will inspire people to give running a go! My message is that no matter what your disability may be, reach out and find your true potential.

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