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2018 Marathon Heroes - Rachel Ashton

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Over the course of our build up to marathon season 2018, we will be featuring a different runner in our Live Sessions, raising money for charity.

First off, we have Rachel Ashton who is running this year's London Marathon and raising money for the National Autistic Society. Here's Rachel's story and if you want to donate, you'll find her fund-raising page here.

Rachel's Fundraising Story

So why am I running the London Marathon ?

Well the truth is that I cannot run. I’ve not been able to run since I was born. In my early years I was labelled Mrs Soft, the female version of a favourite 80’s TV (mint) advertisement character. 

Through the first 14 years of my life I saved my popularity by performing contortions and tricks that seemed fun at the time. I have HEDs which is a genetic condition and means that the glue that holds my joints, organs and generally my body together is made differently slightly faulty and therefore is not very successful at keeping the bits that matter in place. This includes important bits like knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, well… in-fact every joint in 

my body. This syndrome gifts me with chronic pain, fatigue and a popular 'Friends' character’s running style!

I don’t take myself too seriously so I don’t really care too much about what people think of me and my uniqueness.  

A few years ago I thought I would give running a go, partially because my husband is a wonderful runner and my competitive nature kicked in somewhat!

I was of course going to be quicker! I’m not, so what’s the worst that could happen? 

Well what indeed…

A bit of a false start with a severe knee injury during the first week of taking up the sport and some niggles along the way. In short, running has been the single biggest challenge of my life it takes extreme concentration as my proprioception is terrible and I pretty much start every run/race in pain. I have had to be trained by a physiotherapist to know how to keep everything in place. There have been times in my life when I have had to use a video booth so that I can learn to move and I’ve got a splint for more or less everything in my body. I of course I don’t use any of them very often but they form part of my ‘getting by’ toolkit. My mantra is if you don’t use it you lose it, and that’s very important to me.

I cannot run fast because my brain cannot keep up with the mental and physical challenges that running brings, but this said, running gives me a meaning, the most exceptional and unique meaning. A meaning for the pain and the fatigue which I experience on a daily basis. I keep running because of this reason and because of the most phenomenal people I have met throughout my journey. Every one of them I an inspiration to me and others.  

If you see me run by you will not realise the challenges I face. It is invisible to you and this is why I have the deepest empathy with people living day to day on the Autism spectrum, that I have worked with in some way or another - for most of my life with either children or adults with Autism.

Autism touches all our lives.

Mine is just one journey. But every person with Autism takes that journey everyday and they don’t always have the toolbox that I have been able to build up.

That’ where the National Autistic Society becomes so important.

Around 700,000 people in the UK are on the autism spectrum. Together with their families, this means autism is a part of daily life for over 2.8 million people, and these are just the people who have undertaken the tireless battle to get a diagnosis or acknowledgement that they are Autistic.

I have seen first hand the challenges that are faced by people diagnosed on the Autism spectrum on a day to day basis and throughout most of my career. Autism does not disappear, it is a lifelong condition that can lead to varying and unique challenges throughout each person’s journey. Every person has the right to live positively with lifestyle and work choices and opportunities. If the right levels of funding, research, support, advice and guidance are available, coupled with positive public awareness and perception some of these challenges can be diminished and people can live to their strengths. I feel immensely proud to take this journey on behalf of The National Autistic society and the wonderful, life-changing support they facilitate everyday to unique and wonderful human beings.

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