UK

Man tackling 100 triathlons over 100 days for friend with muscular dystrophy

Mr Smee and Mr Kendall have been friends since secondary school (Sara Cooper)
Mr Smee and Mr Kendall have been friends since secondary school (Sara Cooper) Mr Smee and Mr Kendall have been friends since secondary school (Sara Cooper)

A tech worker has challenged himself to complete 100 triathlons over 100 days to pay for renovations to his friend’s home after a “heartbreaking” muscular dystrophy diagnosis.

Tom Smee, 29, from Handsacre, Staffordshire, will swim, cycle and run to raise funds for his childhood friend, Jonathan Kendall, 29, from Walsall, who lives with the deteriorating muscle condition.

Mr Kendall has been unable to obtain a Disability Facilities Grant (DFG), which are provided by local councils for work such as installing a stairlift, building a downstairs bedroom or a ramp.

Mr Smee has trained nearly every day since March, and from Tuesday he aims to complete 90 sprint triathlons (750m swim, 20km cycle, 5km run), nine Olympic triathlons (1.5km swim, 40km cycle, 10km run) and one half-iron man (1.9km swim, 90km cycle, 21.1km run) – with the aim of raising £75,000 to help Mr Kendall.

Man cycling
Man cycling Mr Smee hopes to raise £75,000 for his friend, Jonathan Kendall, who needs home renovations to make his living space more accessible (Tom Smee/PA)

He has also set himself the extra challenge of completing each swim, cycle and run in a certain time and setting a £5 penalty charge if he goes over the limit.

“It’s not something I’ve remotely tackled before,” the user researcher for BT told the PA news agency.

“I’ve done a triathlon before, just recreationally, so it’s something that I actually enjoy doing to keep fit.

“I just thought that I wanted to take on something that was a challenge.”

However, Mr Smee’s training has gone so well and been “really enjoyable” that he fears he might not add any money to the penalty pot.

“I’ve trained to such a degree that I actually don’t think I’ll end up [going over time], so I’ll just have to make some kind of separate donation,” he said.

Mr Smee, who has known Mr Kendall since secondary school, said his friend’s muscular dystrophy diagnosis was “heartbreaking”, particularly as a “core memory” of their friendship is when the two would go to the gym together.

Mr Kendall (right) predominantly uses a mobility scooter when he is outside (Sara Cooper/PA) (Sara Cooper Photography/Sara Cooper Photography)

“I remember me and Jon were the only two people from our friendship group who actually used to go to the gym after school to keep fit, which is really quite heartbreaking for me, because that’s one of the key things that we used to do together,” Mr Smee said.

“Now Jon being diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, he is never going to set foot in a gym again… going to the gym was something that we both really enjoyed.”

The idea to complete 100 triathlons over 100 days came from Mr Smee’s goal to complete his final triathlon on Mr Kendall’s 30th birthday, which falls on November 8.

“The very last efforts would be on Jon’s 30th birthday, so I had this romantic story in my head of me finishing the final (triathlon) at his house and sharing the funds with him,” Mr Smee explained.

Mr Kendall was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy aged 23 and needs home adaptations, such as a stairlift and a downstairs wet room, to make his living space more accessible.

After seeking help from his local council to install a stairlift so he could use his own bathroom, Mr Kendall said he was “disgusted” by Walsall Council’s suggestion he utilise swimming baths or facilities available to the homeless to wash.

“I felt disgusted,” the assistant management accountant told PA.

“I think it’s an unbelievable solution to tell someone who’s fully able, let alone a solution to try and tell someone who’s not able.”

Two friends at a wedding
Two friends at a wedding Mr Smee and Mr Kendall have been friends since secondary school (Sara Cooper/PA) (Sara Cooper Photography/Sara Cooper Photography)

PA has contacted Walsall Council for comment.

Leading up to his diagnosis, Mr Kendall walked with a slight limp but thought this was due to a football injury in his teens.

His mother noticed that he could not stand on his tiptoes, which prompted the 29-year-old to arrange a doctor’s appointment revealing his muscular dystrophy diagnosis.

“From about 2017, I struggled to… carry heavy objects and stairs were more difficult for me,” he said.

“It’s just progressed, so inclines and slopes are more difficult, and when I go out I predominantly use an electric scooter.”

For more information or to support Mr Smee’s challenge, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-jon-get-lifechanging-home-renovations