I feel privileged to have run my first London Marathon for Whizz-Kidz last year. I was 41, had always wanted to run a marathon and there is none better than London. My wife said it was the start of a mid-life crisis and I’m not a runner but I saw it as an event that would challenge me and I had to get it out of my system. When the opportunity came, I grabbed it, and that opportunity was with disabled children and young people’s charity Whizz-Kidz.
I first came across Whizz-Kidz through rugby coaching. I coach at minis level for a local rugby team and had taken some time out to coach in inner London schools for under privileged children, who only knew football as a sport. So as part of the locally run programme, we introduced them to rugby, boxing, athletics and other alternative sports.
One of the schools participating in the programme was a school for disabled children but it was notable that only a couple of them had good quality mobility equipment. When I enquired why, they told me that these children had received their wheelchairs from Whizz-Kidz.
I was astounded and from that moment on I wanted to help to ensure that other children have the support to reach their full potential and access to the best mobility equipment possible. So, I applied to Whizz-Kidz and they accepted me as a runner for them in the London Marathon. I remember telling my wife that I’d been accepted and I’m not sure she really believed that I was serious about it until that moment.
So, I now had to find the £1,900 target, which sounds like a lot of money but every penny counts. I decided to break it down - if all my friends on Facebook donated £5, if I had a cake sale at school and a car boot sale with junk donated by friends I’d be on the way. I spoke to colleagues, clients and suppliers, my family were very generous, the local coffee shop helped out, I did BBQ at home where I charged £1 per drink – suddenly I was turning into a money making machine.
It kept coming in and once every three-four weeks, I would post something related to the marathon and Whizz-Kidz on Facebook. I started to notice that my dog got more likes than I did, so I used him to tell my story, and having a story matters. My story was pretty straight forward. Through rugby, I had found Whizz-Kidz, an amazing charity that provides vital mobility equipment for children, giving them much needed independence and freedom.
I also told the stories of the young people that Whizz-Kidz supported. Let me tell you about Malachi, who now can play with his friends in the park instead of being restricted to his parents’ side, or another teenage girl who can now have a proper strop at her parents by turning her back on them and exiting the room (as a parent of a 12 year old girl, I realise how regular an occurrence this is and should be), or Ruby, a six year old girl who can now play games with her friends such as chase.
It’s these stories and the generosity of your friends that make training so much easier, especially on those cold wet winter evenings or mornings. My advice is to get a training plan and stick to as much as possible, but accept that you will not have time to do it all. You will have some great training runs and sometimes the occasional rubbish ones.
Also, listen to the Whizz-Kidz coach– there is some great advice. But above all, remember why you are doing it, think about how proud you will be at the finish line, of all those kind words of support you have received and of the difference that your help will make to the lives of disabled children and young people across the UK. I’m not an emotional person but I did well up a couple of times on my training runs. It gets to you in a good way.
As for the marathon day – WOW! You will love it. I woke up to see that I had surpassed the £12,000 mark in fundraising, which was a great way to start the day.Then when I got down to the race, the support, generosity and noise is just fantastic. Everyone is there running for a cause close to their hearts and the comradery is brilliant and so supportive. Seeing the Whizz-Kidz support stand, your family and friends and complete strangers cheering you on will make it a day that you will never forget. Run a marathon. Run it for Whizz-Kidz!
I have since completed a Tough Mudder event for them and raised in excess of £20,000 across both events. There is no other charity that I could imagine running for, as the wonderful support from the Whizz-Kidz events team, the coaches and fellow runners will ensure that your experience is one you will be proud of. Do it now – sign up, help to transform the life of a young wheelchair user - you won’t regret it.