This Sunday 4th October, 312 Team Mencap runners – including 10 runners with a learning disability – are refusing to let COVID-19 stop them from achieving their dreams and are gearing up to run the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon.
The big event will not take place as normal this year, with only elite runners running the organised race. However, as the official Charity of the Year, Team Mencap runners will be taking on the virtual 26.2 miles challenge in their local areas. They will be raising money for Mencap’s life-changing programmes which help people with a learning disability lead happy and healthy lives, just like anyone else.
Around 1.5 million people have a learning disability in the UK and by taking on the virtual race, Team Mencap’s 10 runners with a learning disability are aiming to raise awareness and tackle the everyday prejudices, stigma and misunderstanding around learning disability. They will be showing the world what people with a learning disability can achieve with the right support.
While they may not have the race day they all hoped for, Mencap’s 10 runners with a learning disability are not letting that stop them from achieving their goal to collectively raise £10,000 by running 26.2 miles to thank Mencap for its support. You can help make a difference today by donating, just search ‘Virgin Money Giving Mencap Running Squad’.
‘Meet the 10 Team Mencap runners with a learning disability’
Aaron Plummer, 19, from Walthamstow in London and who has a learning disability and cerebral palsy, is taking on the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon. Starting at Lloyd Park in Walthamstow, Aaron will be running a marathon route in his local area with his support runner, Mencap’s programme manager Ruth Owens, as part of this year’s special virtual 40th Race. Aaron is running to thank the charity for supporting him to achieve his dream first job working in the hotel industry.
Former British Gymnastics trampoline member and supermarket worker, Charlotte Aspley, from Lichfield in Staffordshire and who has Mosaic Down’s syndrome and visual impairment, is a seasoned marathon runner and has previously run the London, New York and Berlin marathons. Instead of hitting the streets of the capital, Charlotte will be recreating the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon in her hometown of Lichfield, starting and finishing at Lichfield Rugby Club with cheering points and water stations on route.
Charlotte refuses to let alearning disability, physical disability, and serious injury hold her back and wants to use the marathon to thank the charity for supporting her into employment and show what people with a learning disability can achieve.
Croydon resident Philip Davis, who has a learning disability and dyspraxia, refuses to let COVID-19 stop him from running his first ever marathon as he joins friend and fellow former British Disability Gymnastics teammate, Charlotte Aspley, to take on the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon in Charlotte’s hometown, Lichfield in Staffordshire, in their respective socially-distanced ‘support bubbles’.
Philip, 35, represented his country in the British Disability Gymnastics team up until 2015 as well as in the 2011 Special Olympics World Games, where he won seven medals including silver on the pommel horse and gold on the parallel bars.
Freddie Latham, from St Albans in Hertfordshire, has Global Development Delay and a learning disability and is taking on the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon with his dad, Nick Latham.
Freddie, 22, runs with his dad, Nick as his support runner. But lockdown measures meant that he was unable to see his family, as he lives outside the family home in a residential support service, and Freddie and Nick’s training came to a stand-still. Since lockdown restrictions have lifted, Freddie has been reunited with his family and his training with dad, Nick has got back on track.
Freddie had always joked about taking on his local 10k race, but after passing an advert for it to Nick one day, his dad called his bluff. Not one to back down from a challenge, Freddie entered the race in October 2017 and hasn’t looked back since.
Michael Beynon, from the Amman Valley and who has Down’s syndrome and a learning disability, is excited to be taking on his first ever marathon and achieving his ambitions to become the first person with Down’s syndrome from Wales to take on the Virgin Money London Marathon, despite his family being warned by doctors that Michael was likely to need a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
Having knowledge about the therapeutic benefits of physical activity, mum Erika, who is also the CEO of local service Amman Valley Mencap which also provides support to Michael, enrolled Michael, 24, in an athletics club aged four. Since then Michael has represented Wales and Great Britain in the Special Olympics which has seen him win over 60 medals across a range of events. Now, he is now gearing up to take on his first ever marathon.
Tomas Cardillo-Zallo, from Kingston-upon-Thames, who has a learning disability and autism, will be taking on his first ever marathon. Tomas, 29, will be running the virtual 40th Race along the River Thames from Windsor to his home in Kingston-upon-Thames with the support of a relay of family members.
After being inspired by his mum Sue to take up running, Tomas has now taken part in over 100 park runs. He was set to struggle during lockdown but with the support of Mum and the routine of Joe Wick’s PE lessons, he has kept up with marathon training and will now face his biggest physical challenge yet as he takes on the 26.2 miles challenge.
Jamie Dancyger, 35, from Worcestershire has a learning disability but has already proved his school bullies wrong by becoming a Special Olympic medal-winning runner. Now, he is set to prove them wrong again by running a marathon route in his local area.
Jamie experienced bullying when he was at school and was taunted by some other students during PE lessons for the way that he ran. Everything changed when Jamie, who was encouraged by his father – a retired learning disability nurse who volunteered as a coach at a local Special Olympics group – to try out for his local Special Olympics group. Jamie’s talent for long-distance running was soon recognised.
Tomas Kirby from King’s Norton, Birmingham, is gearing up to take on the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon. Instead of hitting the streets of the capital, Tomas will be running the marathon in his hometown of Birmingham as part of this year’s special virtual 40th Race. Starting at Rowheath Pavilion in Bournville and finishing at Cannon Hill Park in Moseley, Tomas will be running the 26.2 miles with his support runner, Mark.
The 28-year-old, who has a learning disability,experienced isolation and social exclusion at school. Tomas was picked last for PE and struggled to make friends as a result of negative attitudes about learning disability. After a period of ill health left him at home and depressed, Tomas’ mother reached out to Birmingham-based support service Midland Mencap to see what support they could offer. This opened up a world of opportunities for Tomas – he joined a hockey team, made new friends, and now his next ambition is to run a marathon.
Kenilworth resident Penny Rusbridge, who has a learning disability, is taking on her first ever marathon. Instead of hitting the streets of the capital, Penny, 42, will be recreating the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon in her local area as part of this year’s special virtual 40th Race on Sunday 4th October.
Penny was not diagnosed with a learning disability – a lifelong condition – until late in life. Penny, who was born in Australia and moved to the UK when she was a teenager, struggled in school and had difficulty communicating. She also experienced bullying at school and felt socially excluded after always being picked last in PE, but Penny is now proud to be a seasoned marathon runner and to be taking on the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon for Mencap
Amman Valley resident Llinos Gilmore-Jones, who has a learning disability, will be recreating the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon along the Llanelli Millennium Coastal Path.
While this will be Llinos’ first marathon, she has previously represented Great Britain in the Special Olympics in a number of competitions winning over 60 medals for her country.
Since first being called up to represent her country in the Special Olympics, Llinos has won medals competing in events such as the 60m, 100, 4×100 relay, ten pin bowling, standing long jump, shot put and skiing. In recognition of her achievements, Carmarthenshire County Council awarded Llinos Disabled Person of the Year award and she was also nominated for a Llanelli Star Sporting Excellence award.