Tim explains; “I run because I can. When I get tired, I remember those who can’t run, what they would give to have this simple gift I take for granted, and I run harder for them.” (source: http://www.whoirun4.com/about-ir4/)
I registered Hugh, my 4 year old son who has severe developmental delay, and he was quickly paired with a runner from America.
Runners and their ‘buddies’ are encouraged to post regularly ion the Facebook group with photos, details of their run or workout, news and messages of support.
The page is a hive of daily activity with buddies and runners from all over the world sharing stores, building relationships and making connections.
Some runners compete in races wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the name of their buddy then send the medals on to them.
Some runners and buddies have met, others run in virtual races and clock up the miles to cover the distance between them.
Some runners post photos of their workouts all with the message – ‘I’m doing this for you’; the person they’re running for spurring them on to train harder or run faster.
The buddies send regular updates – what they’re doing at school for example – and some post cards and letters or pictures to their runners.
They also have two secondary organisations, building on the foundations of the original idea:
Kerri on: I run for remembrance: where athletes are paired with families who’ve lost members due to special needs conditions, sudden death or other tragedies
I run 4 siblings: the unsung heroes: which pairs athletes with the brothers and sisters of children with special needs.
Hugh being matched with a runner was fabulous, but he is profoundly disabled and has no awareness of it.
I have enjoyed making connections with his runner though and sharing stories about Hugh with her and she has offered encouragement and support, particularly when Hugh has been in hospital or unwell.
For our family it is The I Run 4 Siblings group which has had the most positive impact.
Siblings of children with special needs are often the forgotten heroes in the drama.
Sean, at just 6 years old, has witnessed and experienced things no child ever should.
He has watched me resuscitate Hugh countless times, he’s witnessed his baby brother being whisked away in an ambulance with blue lights and sirens, and he’s seen him hooked up to all kinds of monitors and machines in hospital.
From a very young age he knew how to ring for an ambulance and he’s already adept at tube feeding.
Even with the best of intentions our lives revolve a little (and sometimes a lot) around Hugh. If Hugh’s ill we can’t leave the house – friends and family take Sean to school for me.
If Hugh’s in hospital (which is often), Sean is palmed off on whoever can help, since I need to stay in the hospital and their dad needs to work – unfortunately those bills still need paying!
We do our very best to make Sean feel important and special but he knows, and accepts with his adult-like empathy, that often Hugh’s needs are our priority.
And that makes me very sad.
So when Sean got paired with a runner I was delighted to share it with him. This was something just for him.
He has been really involved with messaging Sarah, his runner, and is excited to hear from her.
The teacher in me couldn’t resist using it to teach him about the world – so we looked at where Sarah is from in America and where she has been deployed to with the army and found them on the globe.
We found out the time zones in both those places and at various times of the day we’d check to see if Sarah or her family at home would be awake or asleep.
Sean’s really impressed she’s in the army and has asked lots of questions about war in the Middle East.
He eagerly scours the photos she posts for any tanks or guns and even asked if she might be able to send him a real one!
In return, Sean likes to tell Sarah about football (or rather soccer as she calls it).
He’s shared his love of Aston Villa with her and about the matches he’s played with his local team.
And when he received an engraved medal at his football-themed birthday party earlier this year – he asked me to post one out to Sarah. Last week Sean was off school with a bug.
He sat curled up on the sofa watching films.
Then up popped this: All the way from an army base in Kuwait came a get well message. #And what followed were messages to ‘feel better soon’ and ‘get well’ from runners and buddies alike all over the world! Sean was absolutely delighted.
If you would like to find out more about I Run 4, their website is here: http://www.whoirun4.com/