CRY to benefit from a new “fitness & fundraising” platform in partnership with inspiring Berkshire-based tech team

Just three years after launching a motivational and endurance initiative (to row a million metres in under a year!) local Berkshire dad and charity campaigner, Tony Eames, is hoping to encourage 1,000,000 people from across the world to sign up to his new social enterprise fitness programme, The Million Metre Challenge.

Back in June 2017, Tony (who lives in Wokingham with his wife, Emma, and three young daughters) created the million-metre rowing challenge as part of his ongoing mission of helping to raise awareness for Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY). Tony also wanted to show that ordinary people with busy work schedules, health issues and young families can accommodate a strong fitness programme into their day-to-day routine.

In just under the year (339 days to be precise!) Tony (40) completed his marathon mission, by taking on each leg of the challenge before breakfast, with his alarm going off at 4.59am!   

Scroll forward to 2021, a third national lockdown and the rise in popularity of the “virtual challenge”, Tony and a new team of tech entrepreneurs have fully launched an advanced “Million Metre Challenge” – reaching out to individuals and virtual teams to follow in his footsteps and complete a long distance challenge through any activity measurable in metres (whether cycle, row, run, swim, walk).

And, in honour of CRY’s 25th anniversary year, the “MMC” has partnered-up to launch the 25 Million Metre Challenge. Tailor-made for the charity, this is a virtual challenge with a difference! Rather than heading out alone, the team at MMC is asking CRY supporters to help achieve 25 million metres from 1st February (the start of National Heart Month 2021) until 2 May!

Tony’s achievements are all the more incredible due to the fact that, in 1991, aged just 12, he was diagnosed with a potentially fatal heart condition known as Long QT after a long history of fainting and subsequent misdiagnoses. Tony was later fitted with a pacemaker and continues to take medication – although nothing stops him from living life to full, taking part in charity fundraising challenges and even carrying the Paralympic torch in the 2012 London Games relay on behalf of CRY. He was also one of the original members of CRY’s unique support group for young people, myheart.

Tony says: “Looking back, I was always putting work first, ahead of family. I now realise I had zero focus on my well-being, despite the cardiac complications I’d suffered as a teenager.

“But since completing the challenge, I feel stronger – both physically and mentally – than ever before and I’ve come to the realisation that a balance between, fitness, work and family can definitely be achieved.”

Charities, such as CRY, and their supporters have embraced virtual fundraising challenges during 2020, within the constraints of lockdown. Most of these virtual challenges use the ‘honour’ system in which users send in a photo of their activity or input a manual update. But excitingly, “The Million Metre” system uses ‘real’ data gathered and verified from some of the world’s leading fitness apps – Strava, Fitbit Garmin, Concept2 and many more.

Tony adds: “During these very unsettling times, fitness is being seen by many as taking back some control of our health and wellbeing, as well as a positive way of using the additional hours we may now have instead of commuting into the office, driving our children to school and clubs or travelling to meetings. All of the activities suggested can be enjoyed individually or at a safe distance with your ‘remote’ teammates – and the MMC may give you just the goal you need to work towards in these uncertain times.”

As Tony explains: “As part of the 25 Million Metre Challenge, you’ll set-up your own team, create your own inspiring target and help CRY clock up the metres together with its supporters and fundraisers. Whichever means of activity you choose, every step, stroke or pedal counts!”

“Overall, our ultimate aim is to recruit one million people to The Million Metre Challenge ‘tribe’ – helping everyone to feel fitter in the short term and enhancing their lifestyle in the long term. And you don’t need to be an established fitness enthusiast to sign up – the challenge already has multiple beginners participating, gradually building up their fitness levels and self-discipline.

“My early years were a constant challenge due to my cardiac condition, but it has also shaped me and my appreciation for what’s in front of us. I’ve always had a ‘bucket list’ of experiences and personal development initiatives that I want to complete as a result of my early health struggle – and The Million Metre Challenge is certainly one of those items!

“And, perhaps most importantly, since becoming involved with CRY, I’ve been really encouraged by the team to tell my story, letting other young people who might be going through the same experience know that they are not alone. Help and support is available along with the opportunity to make a difference to others. I’m always amazed at the feedback I get on my Instagram posts related to living life to the full with a pacemaker.”

Every week in the UK, at least 12 young people (that is aged 35 and under) die suddenly from a previously undiagnosed heart condition. 

80% of these deaths will occur with no prior symptoms and research has shown screening reduces the incidence of young sudden cardiac deaths by 89%. This is why screening is so important and why CRY wants all young people (aged 14-35) across the UK to have the choice to be tested.

CRY’s pioneering research programme is transforming our understanding of the causes and prevention of young sudden cardiac death as well as the treatment of those at risk. CRY also provides a unique bereavement support network for all families who have been affected by the tragedy of young sudden cardiac death as well as a support group –, set up exclusively for people diagnosed with a heart condition at a young age.

Dr Steven Cox, Chief Executive of CRY, concludes: “Tony has always been a great inspiration and very willing to spread the word and share his experiences with other young people affected by a serious heart condition. He’s never let his own condition or long battle for a correct diagnosis get in the way of his dreams and we wish him every luck with this latest million-metre challenge, as he reaches out to recruit his magic million supporters!

“As CRY continues to mark its 25th anniversary we will be taking the opportunity of celebrating the achievements and milestones of everyone who has been diagnosed with a heart condition at a young age and who is living life to the full – as well as helping us to encourage all young people aged 14-35 to get their heart checked.”