In this guest blog, Spencer Freed, a personal trainer from Brixworth, tells us all about how he supported his friend Michael Niblett (who lives with autism) to take on a marathon!
'I met Michael 14 years ago through his mother Dinah as she was aware that I was a personal trainer. She approached me and asked if I would be able to train him. I was made aware of Michael’s autism and became determined to give this fine young man the opportunity to get fit within different environments such as the gym and running outdoors.
'As he gained confidence with me and in different social surroundings Michael agreed to enter a local six-mile running event in Northampton for some fun and as a focus to train. He managed to complete it and seemed to enjoy the feeling of achieving something.
'From this we decided to increase the distance as he developed trust in me. We went on to complete a Daventry 10-mile event and The Hyde Park Half Marathon in 2011. We raised funds for The Autistic Society, approximately £1,500.
'I certainly had the belief that Michael was capable of anything, and towards the back of 2017 we had a brief discussion about entering him into a marathon. Making the impossible possible was to be my mission in the year of 2018 and I suggested the Milton Keynes Marathon would be realistic in May. We certainly had the weather against us at the start of the year with snow still falling in March which delayed our outdoor sessions somewhat. We literally had eight weeks of preparation leading up to the big event.
'Over the course of eight weeks Michael had to face so many barriers when training for the marathon. I had to ask him to change what he eats and when he eats, run during unusual times of the day and at weekends. Due to his autism this was not an easy task, but he trusted me and was able to overcome these difficulties. We successfully managed to train up to 20 miles and felt as ready as we could be leading up to the event.
'Two weeks before the event we decided to raise some money for charity. I suggested that we could run for MS-UK as my working colleague lives with MS and was fully aware of the effects and problems it has on an individual and families supporting this. We set a low target to begin with and as the money came in it soon become obvious that friends, families and the general public were right behind us and they loved our commitment, passion and ambition to complete such a mammoth task.
'On the day of the event, 07 May, it was to be one of the warmest bank holidays on record. We had this against us and at mile ten of the race Michael became affected by the heat and fell to the concrete. I felt devastated for Michael and thought that he was unable to carry on for a brief moment. But through positive talk, motivation and his determination Michael got back onto his feet and together we managed to complete the next 16 miles. It was undoubtedly one of the most challenging tasks I have ever done and to Michael a magic moment to savour for the rest of his life. It was a stadium finish with the crowd, family and friends behind him. He finished in six hours and six minutes. The emotion we both felt was beyond words. We did it!
'We made the impossible possible.
'Following the event it soon became clear that our target amount of money raised was totally smashed. We ended up raising over £3,000! It is so difficult to put this into perspective and we were totally blown away by everyone who supported us and offered kindness to us both.
'We have recently returned back to our regular training regime and Michael is absolutely certain he does not want to do it again next year! He keeps reminding me of this every time we head of out on a run!'