Teacher with collapsed lung inspires pupils at Suffolk school by running London Marathon

  • ITV News Anglia's Matthew Hudson spent the day with the teacher going the extra mile

An assistant school principal who was told he could never run a marathon after suffering a collapsed lung is hoping to inspire pupils at his school by running in this weekend's London Marathon.

Ryan Thomas, 35, said he hoped to lead by example by running the 26.2-mile course on Sunday while 251 students at Beck Row Primary Academy, in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, prepare to complete a mini version of the event at their school in May.

Their efforts will raise money for the whole school to go on a day out to Hunstanton, Norfolk, to play on the beach, visit the sea life centre and enjoy an ice cream.

Mr Thomas, who is the school’s special educational needs co-ordinator, said: "Over 50% of our children have never been to the beach so what probably sounds like quite a simple thing is actually quite life-changing to them."

Mr Thomas, a keen runner in his youth, underwent a pleurectomy – a procedure to prevent fluid collecting in the lungs - at the age of 19 after his lung kept collapsing.

Medics told him he would not have the lung capacity to run marathons after the procedure.

Yet he proved them wrong and although he says he cannot run to the “maximum” that he could before, Sunday's marathon will be his fifth after competing at his first in London in 2013.

“Anything is possible for anyone. It’s working within your means and your drive to do that,” he said.

Mr Thomas, who has two children aged 10 and three, said Beck Row Primary had “quite a diverse demographic” as it is next to a US military base and around one in 10 pupils are from the traveller community.

“When I came here a couple of years ago, it was a school that didn’t have much community about it. There wasn’t events going on, there wasn’t activities,” he said.

Taking part in the TCS Mini London Marathon in schools last year was "inspiring" according to Mr Thomas.

He said: "More than the children, it was getting the community involved. The children were really feeling part of something for the first time.”

The school has already organised a trip to Wembley stadium and will also take pupils to see the musical Matilda in May.

"Things can just happen if we really want to make them happen. You might ruffle a few feathers along the way,” Mr Thomas said.

“I’d never put them at risk but I’d happily write 120 risk assessments if it means that they can have that opportunity and that challenge.

“Our attendance is higher than ever. The school, the parents are happy. Everyone’s on board. We got a very good Ofsted. It’s all got a purpose."

Mr Thomas believes his marathon run has caught the imagination of pupils.

“They are excited by seeing a medal. You’ll get comments like ‘Isn’t that the one that’s on the telly?’ [The fact that] Mr Thomas is going to do something that’s on the telly, it’s huge to them.

"So many of our children have never been to London and even the thought of me going there is mind-blowing, hence the trips that we are putting on. They are definitely inspired.”

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