A Coventry great-grandad who underwent a quadruple heart bypass has completed a huge year-long charity walking challenge. 73-year-old Tony Cunningham set out to walk 10 miles every day throughout 2022 for us and he completed his last circuit of the War Memorial Park on New Year’s Eve.
To date, he has raised almost £12K by clocking up over 5,050 miles on his early morning laps around the city park.
Tony has travelled almost the equivalent distance of Coventry to Arizona in the United States overcoming health problems and extreme weather conditions along the way. He missed only seven 6am starts on the advice of doctors, insisting the charity cause as well as the support he received, made him determined to see the challenge through.
Tony said: “Several things keep me motivated. Most of all I don’t want to let down the children and their families who are helped by Molly Ollys.
“Getting up at 5am and walking between 10 and 18 miles a day every day is a challenge in itself, but the weather can make it even more so. Walking in arctic temperatures certainly takes its toll, but you can always add extra layers of clothing to keep you warm.
“By far the worst weather conditions I’ve encountered were the four named storms we had this year when I was soaked to the skin because once you’re drenched that’s the way you stay until you can get a hot bath and some dry clothes on. On the two days of extreme hot temperatures in the summer I was advised not to walk due to being classed as extremely vulnerable.”
Tony has been spurred on every day by the precious memory of his late wife Jackie of 47 years, who died of cancer last year. “I feel like she has been with me in spirit throughout. I think it has surprised a lot of people that I’ve kept it up,” he said.
As well as a sense of pride, Tony has forged new friendships and will look back on the year as one of the best adventures of his life. His most special memories include meeting three mums in the park whose children have been helped by the charity and bumping into two nurses at UHCW who helped him through his own operation five years ago.
Rachel said: “What a truly amazing man Tony is! To think that he has racked up more than 5,000 miles across 2022 is really hard to get my head around. Tony is a man of his word and once he committed to doing this huge challenge, there was no way he was going to miss a day – unless he was ill.
“There have been times when we have been concerned about Tony– for example, during the storms when he was totally drenched; when it has been bitterly cold and icy; when he was having to get out walking at 5am to try to avoid the heat wave. For most people, the very notion of getting up every single day and walking mostly the same route of 14/15 miles would be overwhelming and overbearing, but Tony is an extraordinary person who is determined to make a difference.”
Tony’s granddaughter Paige also regularly walked with him to keep his morale up.
The Warwick Town Crier, Michael Reddy did a tribute to Tony at the final park run of 2022:-