The Incredible Impact of Running a Marathon with a Support Runner

Doctors said it was unlikely Anthony Bryan would walk again following surgery to remove a brain tumour when he was a young child. This April, he has his sights set on the Guinness World Record for the fastest marathon (CIH) (male) at the 2024 TCS London Marathon. At his side will be his support runner, Tyler Slade. No pressure, Ty!

The CIH in the record title stands for hemiplegia - paralysis of one side of your body. In Ant’s case, it’s the left. Ant and Tyler met through The Richard Whitehead Supported Runners Project in partnership with Nissan, which pairs participants with disabilities with a support runner for Event Day.

The pair have met on only three occasions. The first time was hours before taking on the 2023 Great South Run. Still on a high after that event, they ran a half marathon at the Goodwood Motor Circuit two months later. For this piece, they joined the London Marathon Events team for a very wet 5K (sorry guys!). Ant and Tyler will meet for a fourth time to take on the 2024 TCS London Marathon. Each run has been unknown territory for Ant, and a fresh test to see how his weaker side will cope.

Tyler Slade and Ant Bryan at the Great South Run

Ant (right) and Tyler (left) at the 2023 Great South Run.

Ant, 34, from north London, underwent surgery to remove a benign astrocytoma brain tumour aged just six. An operation that would change the course of his life as he suffered a stroke and lost the use of the left side of his body, and his peripheral vision. He says: “The doctors told my parents I probably wouldn’t walk or be very active ever again, so I want to do this [run the 2024 TCS London Marathon] to prove that I can.”

After a few years of intensive physio sessions, Ant learnt how to walk again. “It gave me a different perspective on life. I can now walk. I can now run. So make the most of it!” 

Ant took home two gold medals for England in the 800m and 1,500m distances at the 2015 Cerebral Palsy International Sport and Recreation Association (CPISRA) World Games. He also became a personal trainer who shows those with disabilities how to make the most of the gym and gives motivational talks at schools across the UK. You can follow Ant's running journey on Instagram.

While he was at school, his teachers wouldn’t let him join the other children in the playground in case he hit his head, so now he wants to change the narrative around people with a disability and being active. 

“Most people with disabilities I train with, all their parents get told your child won’t be able to do this or that,” Ant says. “You get put in a negative box. And by achieving this [running the 2024 TCS London Marathon], I want to say it’s up to you what you achieve. I have parents messaging me on Instagram to say you give us so much hope for the future, and it means a lot.”

Ant got into running at 18 and started competing in 100m and 200m events soon after. However, the World Games made him wonder if he could push himself further. He got to know Richard Whitehead through athletics, and it was Richard who suggested a Support Runner.

If you want to be paired with someone or to become a Support Runner, you can read more about it here. You don’t need prior experience to become a Support Runner as you receive training, and you’ll also get a place at a running event in return for your time.

Here’s how Ant and Tyler built their running partnership and what you need to know about the project.

1. Identify your runner’s needs

It starts with one simple question: “What do you need on Event Day to get to the Start Line and to navigate the course as a team?”

This support gives the runner the ability to focus on completing the distance. Ant explains: “It can be daunting if you have a disability because you have extra things to deal with.”

Ant had taken part in events prior to being paired with Tyler, so he knew a couple of things he needed support with. “I struggle with tying my shoelaces and, embarrassingly, I would have to ask random people, ‘Could you help me?’”

He also discovered that water stations are difficult to navigate with tunnel vision: “Sometimes, I run straight past the water stations so Tyler collecting water is a big help.”

Tyler, 42, from West Sussex, says the process of identifying a runner's needs depends on the individual. “Ant is quite open and we have a bit of banter so we are quite honest and can talk about anything.”

If you are new to being a support runner, Tyler says you shouldn’t worry about saying the wrong thing, as you already have the skills. “Someone could find it quite daunting, ‘Do I reference your arm?’ or ‘What do I do with your leg?’, but he is just a bloke in his 30s, so treat him as you would anybody else.”

The project is a two-way process and in Tyler’s case, it wasn’t Ant’s disability he was worried about. Seeing as Ant had already taken home two gold medals for England, Tyler initially wondered what he needed help with!

Ant says: “Don’t worry about whether you think you are good enough because just your presence and your support will make a huge difference. Give it a go! You are helping someone on their journey and helping them achieve, and that is a great feeling.”

2. Check in, regularly

The great thing about the Support Runner Project is you’re a team. You have your own dedicated support and pacer. Ant says: “When I run on my own now it’s not the same.”

The pair don’t live close to each other, so they have found ways to keep in touch throughout training, such as calling each other while on runs.

On Event Day, Tyler says it’s essential to regularly check in throughout a run and to have a couple of strategies up your sleeve. He says: “We are both quite ambitious with time, but I want to keep him grounded as much as possible. I have more restraint to go, ‘Calm down, dude.’

“The gear change [strategy] is an obvious thing to do. ‘We have six gears here, and if six is your sprint, where are you at? And you have to be honest with me.’ That kind of communication helps him not to leave me behind as well,” Tyler laughs.

Ant says: “Tyler slowing me down does help. If people are overtaking me, I want to get them back, I get carried away with that a lot!”

Running is as much a mental sport as a physical one, so being that reassuring voice in the way the runner needs will go a long way. It helps that when it comes to motivation, Tyler is the founder of VS LIFE and works with people to create a healthier and happier life from contrast therapy to one-to-one sessions.

3. You might just make a lifelong friend

The project aims to pair like-minded runners, although no one could have predicted how Tyler and Ant would hit it off.

Tyler says it’s all about supporting someone, including their confidence, and there’s a chance you will connect with someone via the project who you might not meet otherwise.

Seeing how tenacious they are, it’s not surprising the pair have already considered what’s next. Ant says: “We’ve spoken about this already! I would love to do the six major marathons [London, Tokyo, Berlin, Chicago, Boston and New York], and get the Six Star medal.”

Tyler says: “It’s an honour to be around people like Ant. People who go, ‘No, I’m going to do this.’ It’s not just trying. It’s doing. You are able, so you are doing it.”


Interested in The Richard Whitehead Supported Runners Project in partnership with Nissan? Read more here.

Support Ant and Stoke Association

Keep updated on his 2024 TCS London Marathon journey