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How I went from overweight, unfit and unhealthy to running the world's six major marathons

PUBLISHED: 17:54 28 March 2019 | UPDATED: 17:54 28 March 2019

Ashley Smy from Ipswich holding his medal after completing the Abbotts World Marathon Majors in Tokyo. Pictures: ASHLEY SMY

Ashley Smy from Ipswich holding his medal after completing the Abbotts World Marathon Majors in Tokyo. Pictures: ASHLEY SMY

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Seven years ago Ashley Smy was overweight, unfit and unhealthy - but this year, he has become one of just 5,000 people to complete the world's six major marathons.

Ashley's six major marathon medals. Left to right: Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, New York. Centre: the Abbott World Marathon Majors medal. Picture: ASHLEY SMYAshley's six major marathon medals. Left to right: Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, New York. Centre: the Abbott World Marathon Majors medal. Picture: ASHLEY SMY

Ashley, 37, had never considered running until some friends asked him to join them for the Ipswich Half Marathon in 2012 to raise money for Cancer Campaign in Suffolk.

However 14 marathons later, it is fair to say he has caught the running bug.

After running the Berlin Marathon in 2016 - one of the six major marathons recognised by Abbott World Marathon Majors - Ashley knew he had a challenge in his sights.

“It’s funny really,” he said. “I ran my first ever marathon in Brighton in 2015 and immediately phoned my wife to tell her that I’m never doing one again.

Framlingham Flyers runner Ashley Smy celebrating his achievements with children Jasmine and Leo. Pictures: ASHLEY SMYFramlingham Flyers runner Ashley Smy celebrating his achievements with children Jasmine and Leo. Pictures: ASHLEY SMY

“Then I thought to myself, actually, I could run better than this - so I applied for the Berlin Marathon that year but didn’t make the ballot.”

Ashley eventually qualified for the marathon in 2016, when he began chatting to other runners about the chance of doing the major six.

“I was speaking to them and thought to myself: ‘That would be pretty cool,’” he added.

Ashley’s next stop was New York, two months later - the biggest marathon in the world and another ticked off the list.

Ashley Smy crossing the finish line at the 2018 New York Marathon, beating his personal best. Picture: ASHLEY SMYAshley Smy crossing the finish line at the 2018 New York Marathon, beating his personal best. Picture: ASHLEY SMY

Ashley ended up returning to New York in 2018, running his personal best time of 2hrs 51mins, finishing in the top 8pc of runners.

Ashley’s journey ended in March this year at the Tokyo Marathon - or at least, that is what it seems.

“Tokyo was my hardest one yet,” he explained. “I ran for a local children’s charity in Tokyo.

“Because it was my final of the six, they had set up a guard of honour who applauded me over the finish line and took me into a tent for a medal ceremony.

“It is cool to think that I’m one of only a handful of thousands of people to have completed the six - but in honesty, I’m thinking about doing it all over again.”

Ashley’s journey indeed looks set to continue now he’s secured his place at the Boston Marathon in April.

“It is the challenge that gets you, seeing what your body can do,” he said. “I think I’ll be one of around 40 people in the world to complete it twice, so why not?”

The major six recognised by the organisation are London, Tokyo, Boston, Chicago, New York and Berlin.

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