Faced with the prospect of getting 17 tattoos permanently stamped on his back, a former world-class middle-distance runner for the United Kingdom instead won more than $2,800 as part of a running bet.

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Embed from Getty Images

Colin McCourt, who ran 1:46.73 for 800m in 2006 and 3:37.06 for 1,500m in 2010, made a bet with 17 of his friends in early 2017. If he breaks 16:00 for 5K, each friend owes him 100 British pounds ($168). If he fails to break 16:00 for 5K by Dec. 31, 2017, he would get each of his friend’s names tattooed on his back.

At the time of the bet, McCourt, who competed at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and retired from competitive athletics in 2012 after falling short of making the Olympics, weighed 207 lb. “This is day one, everyone has a starting point, this is mine,” McCourt wrote on Instagram on Jan. 24.

On Saturday, after months of documenting his progress on Instagram (to his more than 8,000 followers), Strava and as part of a blog on Athletics Weekly, McCourt broke 16:00 by a sizeable margin, clocking 15:38 in what was perhaps one of the largest paydays for finishing 35th overall in a road race. “In eight months I’ve gone from a 24:00 5K runner to a 15:38 5K runner,” says the 32-year-old per AW.

“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,” he adds. “It’s just believing in yourself and doing it.”

Apparently, his friends, in the early stages of the bet, ordered pizza to McCourt’s house on his behalf to try to discourage significant fitness gains.

“I’ve done it,” he says of his accomplishment. “I’ve actually done it, 15:38. Smashed it.”

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