A veteran soldier from Lincoln is taking on a marathon-length challenge to help others who are wounded, injured and sick and struggling to get back into employment.
Ronnie Smith was supported by The Poppy Factory when he found himself struggling in the civilian world. Since getting things back on track he has been able to return to service in a new role at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.
Ronnie, 34, had been in training for the nearby Boston UK Marathon – until the event was cancelled due to Covid-19 concerns. Not to be deterred, he is now planning to run a full marathon at DW Fitness First in Lincoln on Saturday, September 12th, with sponsorship money going towards employability support for fellow veterans.
The 26.2 mile run will be the latest in a long series of fitness challenges for Ronnie, who grew up in Hartlepool and joined the Army at the age of 18.
He saw active service in Afghanistan, the Falklands, Jordan and Kenya with the Yorkshire Regiment, 2nd Battalion, oversaw physical training within his company, and served as battalion medic in Cyprus – developing people management skills that would draw upon in the civilian world after first being discharged in 2014.
Despite a successful start in the civilian fitness world, Ronnie went on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder linked to his experiences in service.
“My PTSD really developed hard and on top of not being able to get a job, I developed heart disease. That added insult to injury.
“I was going through a rough time, and having regular meetings with Keiron from The Poppy Factory really sorted me out. It was a weight off my shoulders knowing that someone was in my corner.”
Keiron was able to give employability support to Ronnie, helping him secure new work and education opportunities in healthcare. Then a clean bill of health enabled Ronnie to join the Forces once more, as a member of the Military Provost Guard Service based at RAF Waddington. He is now leading physical training once again and is working towards a promotion to Lance Corporal.
“It’s fantastic to be back, I love the environment on the base and the bond that we all have. I’m hoping a lot of the people here will sponsor me.
“I’ve done a few marathons over the years and I really wanted to do the Boston Marathon for The Poppy Factory so that other veterans can benefit from the same support that I had. Even though the event had been cancelled due to safety concerns, I am still going to run it in my local gym with the support of my girlfriend, Chelsea. She has been with me through everything.”
Keiron Coombs, The Poppy Factory’s Employability Consultant in the East of England, said:
“Ronnie was an absolute pleasure to support, really proactive and open to all ideas, which is what has made him the success he is today. I want to thank him for supporting us in return and I wish him the best of luck.”
To help Ronnie reach his £500 marathon fundraising target, visit www.justgiving.com/Ronaldsmithpt