People get involved in our fundraising challenges for all kinds of reasons. But they all have one thing in common – they want to support autistic people and their families. A few of our wonderful fundraisers share their stories about why they decided to take on the London Marathon.

Our team of 169 runners have so far raised more than £260,000 - which is fantastic! And we'd like to say a huge thank you for their support.

Read stories from some of our inspirational runners below to find out why they’re running the marathon for #TeamAutism

Andy Hartfield

 
"Running has really helped me to manage my stress and anxiety that I experience as a result of my autism so it felt right to give myself the challenge to run the London Marathon.  

"I have only been running since February 2017 and it has fast become my favourite pastime. I won Shrewton running club’s ballot for the London Marathon on 22 April 2018 but I was unsure of who to run for. I initially decided to support a local charity, where I am a volunteer. However, in February 2018 I received an autism diagnosis that led me to dual fundraise for The National Autistic Society. As the charity supports autistic people, like myself and their families, it felt like the right thing to do.

"Since my late diagnosis, it has struck me how little most people know about autism as a condition. It is a neurological development disorder, not a mental illness or disease. Similarly, people underestimate the seriousness of autism and the everyday challenges autistic people face. I have had to educate myself about autism despite having it all of my life and I believe it is important people understand such a condition that affects over 700,000 people in the UK. This is why raising awareness is one of my primary goals in running the London Marathon.

"At 45, my Asperger syndrome diagnosis was a huge relief, as my lifetime of feeling different could finally be attributed to a well-known condition. The symptoms of my autism had become more apparent during a transitional period where I had changed jobs. I have previously moved jobs as I have felt my position to be untenable with regard to what I am being told is right and wrong or what is acceptable or unacceptable behaviour.

"Facing some stress and a lot of anxiety, I approached my managers at my latest job where they luckily responded with kindness and advice. After speaking to a GP, I was then referred to an on-site occupational health unit. Here I was given an autism assessment that was overwhelmingly positive.

"My employers have since made a number of adjustments to make my working day easier. For example, I like to sit at a particular desk and my sensitivity to sound means that I tend to wear special noise-cancelling headphones. This transparency with my employers about my condition has meant I can do my job with a lot less anxiety, which is crucial.

"My running began as a means of getting involved in the community of my small village, Shrewton. Shrewton is quiet and rural which makes my training very pleasant. The fact that I was chosen for the London Marathon has been a great boost to my confidence and a reliable outlet for my anxiety."

Andy has raised 74% of his £500 target. You can help him reach his target by donating to his fundraising page.

Derek Johnston

"I am a music teacher, and have run many 10k races, half marathons and two full marathons. I took up running again six years ago when I turned 40 as a means of losing wait and keeping fit. Running is now my main hobby and I run on average 40 kilometres per week. My personal best times are one hour 29 minutes for a half marathon and three hours 16 minutes for a full marathon.

"My main inspiration to run the London Marathon in aid of The National Autistic society is due both my person and professional circumstances. Heather, my nine year old niece, was recently given a diagnosis of autism with a Pathological Demand Avoidance profile. 

"Heather's diagnosis means she needs constant monitoring, with my family having to constantly adopt a range of positive behavioural strategies for her. Diet, places to visit, the school environment and other aspects of day-to-day life have to be carefully planned and considered also. Heather is also being tested for ADHD and Tourette's syndrome, due to the fact that my sister has been told that is common for children on the spectrum to have more than one condition. She has been exhibiting signs of these other conditions for quite some time. In summary, Heather’s diagnosis has been a strain on the family although, as you would expect, she is loved completely and given all possible care and attention.  

"Since Heather's diagnosis, my sister has endeavoured to seek out all services and information, travelling to any available support groups which are often run, or at least survive on, volunteer parents and donations. She has joined The National Autistic Society as a way of gaining information about autism and support.

"Training for and now running the London Marathon in aid of The National Autistic society has been an extremely positive and uplifting experience for my whole family. In addition, my professional role as a teacher in a large secondary school brings me into daily contact with pupils who have been diagnosed with autism.

"Consequently, I have used this marathon project to show encouragement to these pupils, not only through raising funds for The National Autistic Society, but also to demonstrate my own commitment to making sure the school community as a whole fully understands the difficulties young people with autism face in their day-to-day lives. 

"Running for The National Autistic society has provided a positive focus on autism for the whole school community and in particular pupils with this diagnosis. In addition, a Coltness High School teacher showing support for autism in this way has been very much appreciated by parents. I know from meeting and talking to parents of pupils that have been diagnosed that their child attending secondary school is a huge worry for them. I believe that seeing a member of school staff supporting autism in this way demonstrate the school’s support. 

"So far as a school community we have raised £4,850. This amount, combined with personal donations to me through my JustGiving page, means that currently I have managed to raise £5,280. It goes without saying that this could not have been achieved without the amazing help of the pupils and parents of the school. We have held three fundraising music concerts in the school as well as several fundraising musical performances in the local community. We also held a school non-uniform 'dress down for autism' day, where pupils donated £1 to be able to come to school in their regular clothes for a day, as well as undertaking bag packing in three local supermarkets.  

"We have still a number of fundraising projects to undertake but I am hopeful that the final amount raised will be £6,000. From the outset, Rachael and her team have been a tremendous support. Rachael has been in constant contact to hear about my fundraising projects, as well as offer encouragement. In each step of the process, The National Autistic Society team have always been there to provide much needed assistance, support and advice."

Clare Woodford

"My name is Clare, I am a Secondary School teacher from a small Village in South Wales named Abercynon where I live with my fiancé Geraint and our two precious children - Gracie aged seven and Josh aged four.

"This will be the second time that I have run the London Marathon, the first time being 2017. I hadn’t run for many years but started back up again when I found out I had a place last year. I have followed the training programme sent out by The National Autistic Society and I’m currently enjoying tapering.

"Last year, I entered and fundraised myself. With support from family and friends I managed to raise £6,647 for The National Autistic Society. This year, I have been lucky enough to get a place again alongside my brother Andrew who is also running for The National Autistic Society. Andrew has trained hard and has lost eight and a half stone through his training in preparation for the marathon.

"We have fundraised really hard doing band nights, discos, a spiritualist night, children’s parties, raffles, sponsored walks, cupcake sales and more and have currently raised £8,827.15 - we are hoping to get to £10,000 by the time we have finished the marathon.

"I chose to run for The National Autistic Society because my son Josh was diagnosed with autism in January 2017. Josh is undoubtedly my inspiration - my reason to run. I would not change Josh for anything - he is a kind, clever, happy boy with a wicked sense of humour. He loves numbers and shapes, his favourite hobby is bowling and he loves watching The Chase - his favourite Chaser is Anne Heggarty! I love both him and his sister Gracie unconditionally. However, autism can present him and us as a family with daily challenges that we work hard to overcome, and find ways to adapt.

"I want to show Josh and Gracie that anything is possible if you work hard enough. I am also keen to raise awareness of autism - I have been so blessed with the support from my local community and they have embraced autism awareness which makes me feel so proud. 

"I want my children to know that whatever challenges they face as they go through life that I will always support them and this is my way of making a difference and supporting Josh. 

"To me, autism may bring with it differences but it certainly doesn’t mean less. #TeamAutism were a great support last year, and they have been a fantastic support again this year. Although, most of the team are just names and photos at the moment, it really does feel as though we are part of a team, all with our own reasons to run but with the shared goal ‘until everyone understands’."

Vicky Quinn

"Quite often I am asked why I run. I run for Thomas, my gorgeous boy, who was diagnosed with autism at three and a half years old. He is an affectionate, fun loving little boy who loves spinning, jumping and water. His gentle nature and clear desire to communicate keep us forever positive, and the National Autistic Society have helped us on our journey so far. 

"I often think that, health barriers withstanding, life is what you make of it. So, when we began to realise that Thomas may have autism, we had a choice - we could panic, freeze and get lost, or we could get moving on helping him thrive, and fast. So, with the support of the National Autistic Society and his incredible nursery school, we chose to act.

"We put all our energy into getting the best for him - to increase the chances of him reaching his full potential in life, and to always be his cheerleaders. I spent a summer fighting for him to get into his incredible school, and it is a constant battle to get him what he needs. The reason it remains a battle is because there is, sadly, still a lack of understanding around autism. And that is yet another reason why I support The National Autistic Society, the charity who helped us to act, who support parents who can feel lost and isolated, and who made us feel like we were in it together. 

"We celebrate Thomas; yes, it can be hard, really hard, but I wouldn’t change him for the world, and watching him progress is the most rewarding thing ever. He has a happy, full life and so do we; and so I am running the London Marathon for The National Autistic Society so that all the wonderful boys and girls like Thomas get the support they need to reach for the moon!"

Sarah-Jane Ashton

"Hi I’m Sarah-Jane. I am 34, married to Rich and we have two amazing children, Ruby and Jaxon. I work part time as an admin assistant at a local taxi firm in Hinckley.

"I started running just over two years ago when I signed up for a fitness challenge at the gym. This was an eight week fitness course where I had to follow a nutrition plan and endure bootcamp style sessions mainly outdoors in all weathers. There was a lot of running involved and I was always at the back, so I was determined to get better. I pushed myself every time I went out and since then have ran two half marathons. 

"On a whim I entered the London Marathon for a laugh and I never thought for one minute I would get selected in the ballot - how wrong I was!

"Although I had a ballot place I couldn’t take on this massive challenge without raising money for an awesome charity in the process. I ran my first half marathon for The National Autistic Society in 2016 and raised over £1,000, so I thought surely I could raise that again for a bigger challenge.

"My six year old son Jaxon is autistic, so I know firsthand how important it is to have a support network around you. I am extremely lucky to have very supportive family and friends but some people aren’t that fortunate.

"Jaxon is my inspiration for doing the marathon. He is the one that has made me believe that anything is achievable. When it gets tough on race day I will think about how tough it is for Jaxon on a daily basis and the challenges he faces. Those challenges for him are for life, not just a few hours. So if he can continue to get over these hurdles daily, I can get to that finish line.

"So far I have raised just over £2,000. Everyone has been so supportive of all my fundraising events. As this was my initial target and with less than two weeks to go, I have decided to up my final goal to £2,500 as I love a challenge! I can cross that finish line knowing I have raised lots of money and have done the best I can.

"#TeamAutism have been great, offering lots of support and advice. It’s been great sharing this rollercoaster journey with them all and hearing all their lovely inspirational stories.

"I cannot wait to cross that finish line now and know I have made a difference!"

Victoria Grainger

"I'm an Operational Support Manager, and this is my first London Marathon - in fact my first marathon ever! 

"My amazing nephew William, aged six, was diagnosed last year with ASD. He is the kindest, most loving, cleverest little boy I know, and I’m running to prove to him that you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it. We run together most Sundays at Great Run Local and every week he gets a little quicker and more confident.

"When William was diagnosed, as a family we all did a lot of reading around autism and how we could make the world a little bit easier for him. The first place I looked was The National Autistic Society website. I thought, if I can raise a little money and awareness for The National Autistic Society then that would be great, as they have helped my family so much, and how many others could do with their help?

"I've mentioned it above really but Will's mostly my inspiration, as well as my amazing family. They have all be so fab during my training, wobbles and just reassuring me that regardless of my finish time it will be a PB and they will be proud of me. 

"My last long run was horrible. I was 15 miles in, although I felt alright my brain just wouldn't let me carry on, so I stopped at my brother’s house in tears, asking why I was doing this to myself, and how on earth was I ever going to do another 11 miles? There was Will, ready to give me a cuddle and tell me not to worry. Well actually his first words were, "quick, Auntie Tor is trying to cry. Stop her!" followed by, "why are you crying? I can't run 15 miles!".

"I don't think people realise how consuming marathon training becomes, especially when you have someone to finish for. My family, including Will, are coming to cheer me on. Will has never been to London, so what better excuse?

"I have raised just over £500 so far. I started a new job in February and it's been a bit crazy I haven't had chance to do any fundraising really, so all my donations have come from friends and family members. But that is one of the reasons I used my ballot place for #TeamAutism. There was less pressure for me to have to raise a specific amount - it was just 'anything I can raise will help'.

"#TeamAutism support has been great, the Facebook group, little check-ins, seeing everyone else going through the same emotions, feelings and panic. There have been a few times when I've thought I can't do it but there's always been a little something come into my inbox just in time. Also, to know on the day there will be a little group of people cheering just for me is fantastic!"

Take part in the London Marathon 2019

Feeling inspired by our runners? Why not join #TeamAutism for the London Marathon 2019? Simply click the button below to find out how you can get involved.

Run the marathon in 2019