Why I’m running the London Marathon for two great causes – my Mirror article

“You’re going to run how far? At your age? What on earth are you doing that for?”

Yvette was not totally convinced when I first told her I was going to run the London Marathon 2012. And there have been times, dragging my 45 year old legs around Pontefract race track in the snow and rain, when I’ve had my doubts.

My old office in the Treasury used to overlook the final miles of the Marathon route as runners come past the Houses of Parliament and make their way down to the Mall. When I was there on Marathon weekend, it was an amazing vantage point to see the first professional runners and wheelchair athletes come through, then the great tide of club runners.

But I’ll always remember what I found most poignant were the older, less experienced or less fit runners who – often reduced to a walk – would reach that stage hours later when the crowds and barriers had gone, and the street-sweeping machines were out.

Part of me felt sad for them not getting the attention they deserved and others had enjoyed. But amid the exhaustion and pain, their faces showed the relief and pride to be so close to achieving their goal, whether for themselves, their loved ones, or – for thousands of them – their favourite charities.

I’ve no doubt that tomorrow I’ll be part of that last group, struggling to finish. But whenever my legs start to waver, I know I’ll have in my mind the two brilliant children’s charities I am running for – Action for Stammering Children and Whizz-Kidz. And that will be enough to keep me ploughing on.

This week I took King’s Speech Oscar winner Colin Firth to see the brilliant work that Action for Stammering Children (ASC) do to give stammering children their voice and the confidence to speak up.

We popped in to see a group of children and their parents who are at the end of a two week course at the Michael Palin centre in north London, which ASC run with the National Health Service along with a second centre in Leeds.

One parent wiped away a tear as she told us this was the first time her 11 year old son had ever met other children who stammer and been able talk about it with children who understand. As a lifelong stammerer myself, I know how hard and lonely it can be when you keep it all bottled up.

Then we heard from the children themselves – stammering but with new confidence – as they told us what a difference the course will make to them at school next week. One said: ‘I think I’ll be able to speak in class, and I’ve learned to order my own lunch at the canteen.. and I’ll definitely be a bit more happy’.

Whizz-Kidz, the second charity I am running for, also transforms the lives of children with disabilities across Britain. The charity has already provided thousands of children with the right mobility equipment, with 70,000 still waiting for help.

But they do much more than that. Whizz-Kidz supports these children to have fun and active childhoods and gives them confidence and independence – to travel to school with their friends, go to college or university, or play sport for the local club.

Like 17 year old Jamie, star of his local basketball team and about to go to York University. Jamie needs a wheelchair, but it doesn’t hold him back – it propels him forward.

Jamie is now a great advocate for young people like him. When I worked with him as chair of the charity’s Kidz Board, I was so impressed by his determination to get a better deal for other children and young people with disabilities. I want to help him succeed.

That’s the kind of self-confidence that Action for Stammering Children and Whizz-Kidz give to the children they support. They have a disability, they need extra help. But it’s who they are and they’re proud of it.

It is for these children, and these two fabulous charities, that I am running the London Marathon. Because compared to the challenge these kids face and the bravery they show every day, what’s a mere 26 miles?

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Posted April 21st, 2012 by Ed