The former GB international clocks 15:38 for 5km and so avoids punishment of 17 tattoos

Colin McCourt has smashed 16 minutes for 5km to win a long-running and much-followed running bet in style.

Earlier this year we reported how the former GB international had been set a challenge by his friends to break the time barrier in 2017.

His prize for doing so would be £1700 – £100 each from a 17-strong group of friends which includes his fellow GB internationals Ross Murray, Andrew Osagie and Andy Vernon. His punishment for failing? To have all of their names tattooed on to his body.

Breaking 16 minutes for 5km wouldn’t usually be a problem for a man who won the 1500m at the 2010 European Team Championships and who has a PB of 3:37.06 for that distance, but he had grown to 94kg (14st 11lb) since retiring from athletics in 2012.

Determined, McCourt decided to document his running return on Instagram and in a series of Athletics Weekly blog posts and his progress has captured the imagination of the running community.

In his most recent post for AW, written a few days before his successful 5km attempt at the Podium 5k road race in Burnley, he wrote: “I am in shape and I just need to get it done once and for all.”

Get it done he most certainly did – clocking 15:38 on Saturday evening.

The race was won by Liverpool Harriers’ John Ashcroft in a 14:27 PB, while Kendal’s Rebecca Robinson won the women’s race in 16:39 from 2011 world 1500m silver medallist Hannah England with 16:40.

“I’m a happy boy – it’s been done, smashed it,” said McCourt.

“I wasn’t feeling great today, it was a long drive down. I can’t believe I’ve done it.

“In eight months I’ve gone from a 24-minute 5km runner to a 15:38 5km runner,” he added. “It has been a mental year. It just shows that if you can just run and do little sessions and tempos, you can take it to the next level if you want to. It’s just believing in yourself and doing it.”

For his next challenge?.. McCourt says he will leave that to the running community to decide – be it a race or a distance or a time to raise money for charity.

Congratulations, Colin. And thank you for sharing your story!