Frances Lloyd, mother of young Jonty, is the first to admit she is not a sporty person. In fact she finds running, in particular, incredibly hard work and against what her body feels like it naturally wants to do! Yet embarking on the challenge of running is, she feels, a very small sacrifice to make compared to the constant discomfort Jonty feels in his own body.

Frances ran a gruelling 12 miles at the the Redcar Half Marathon, a popular race that has been taking place in the North East for over 30 years. She raised £1,230 for autism research. 

In Frances' own words

"When people ask me why I started running I know what they are thinking. I don't look like a runner; I don't have the build. I don't act like a runner; I'm usually sporting a glass of red wine, a chocolate biscuit or a look of general disgust  towards exercise. Or they may remember me from my school years when during cross country I could be found miles behind the class, nonchalantly walking the route wearing gym gear that looked more like party clothes and discussing who would be going out at the weekend.

After having  children I toyed with the idea of running as a way to keep fit, lose baby weight or just to get out the house without a child attached to me. But I always found an excuse not to. But truth be told I HATED running. My half-hearted attempts confirmed my school memories; running made every fibre of my body hurt.

After Jonty's autism diagnosis my mindset shifted. Life became harder; my family faced new struggles, ones we couldn't have predicted, ones we couldn't fathom.

I tried to find ways to understand what life was like for Jonty - when the world is telling you to act one way but your mind and body is comfortable acting another. So I started running. The one thing my mind and body both hated. And when it was painful and I wanted to stop (I had literally ran 2 minutes) I thought about everything I asked Jonty to do that was painful or alien to him. Looking me in the eye. Trying a new texture of food. Walking instead of running. Wearing clothes. Talking...

And I carried on.

Eventually I hit 5k. And that was my own success story. For a few years I ran sporadically 5k here and there. I found it was good for the soul, the head and the skinny jeans! But life got busy, things got in the way, and before I knew it two years had passed and I couldn't remember when I had last ran.

Then, this Spring, by chance a friend and I discovered we had a common interest - to eat what we want and not get fat. Someone told me running 16 miles a week was a possible cure for this. We started running. Or fast walking as we called it. One lap of the football field and we were broken! It was as hard as the first time. But we carried on - proud of ourselves when we hit our target 5K. 

Then she threw me a curve ball. Let's do a half marathon. The thought made me feel sick. No way. I couldn't do that. 5k was my limit.

Limits. The one  thing I promised myself I would never put on Jonty.

People hear the word autism and they see limits. Lines. Barriers. But one of the many things he has taught me is that he does not see life with limits. He lives without inhibitions and with that freedom there is all sorts of possible. No limits.

So I signed up and here we are. I still hate it. My body still screams. But every time it does I remind myself of  the half marathons Jonty completes everyday. To listen, to concentrate, to understand, to learn. To be part of a world that doesn't always make sense to him.  

I'm running for autism. For Jonty. For autism research. For every one who needs to understand autism a little better. I'm hoping any money raised helps the researchers push through their own limits. When people have told them to stop, or that they're wrong or there's no answer. They keep on going. They keep running!"


Thank you to Frances for sharing her personal story and her reasons for supporting the Autism Research Trust.