Archie At Restaurant

Olly Bates is running for I CAN in the London Marathon – How it all started

It goes without saying (that like with all good ideas), my wife Annabel came up with the inspiration last October that I “should run the London Marathon”!

Whilst I had been mulling over how to raise funds to support Meath School (that is run by I CAN), I had thought of rather unrealistic and over adventurous ideas which would have no doubt cost the earth to do and therefore meant little profit left over for I CAN. So the marathon it was.

I guess I should really begin a little earlier than last October to explain our family circumstances and as to why I am trying to raise funds for I CAN to support Meath School.

For those of you reading this article, who do not know our family circumstances, you will most likely have never heard of the term ‘Worster Drought Syndrome*’; you are in a good company as I had neither……at least not until 5 years ago.

Our son Archie, was born in 2005 weighing in a little over 4 pounds, and has generally been a healthy and happy child, so long as he is well fed! But he was a slow developer, being late to sit up as a baby, and latterly to walk. More disturbingly he also often dribbled. After a number of appointments with various specialists we received his diagnosis late in 2008.

The shock of being told by doctors that Archie (then aged 3) would never be able to speak normally and would probably need life-long support (as his condition presents other problems) came as a massive shock to Annabel and I, as well as to our eldest child, Phoebe. We were further knocked last year when our youngest child William (now aged 3) was also diagnosed with the same condition; it is a form of Cerebral Palsy, but localised to the mouth, limiting the muscle coordination between the brain and the tongue.

It is understandably difficult for those not in the same boat to imagine what it feels like, but to try and sum it up; you effectively mourn the life you expected and hoped for, for your child, or in our case two. When you want the best for your children it is very tough to get your head around the fact that ‘their hill’ to climb in life has just become ‘a mountain’.

Last October, when I signed up to do the Marathon I still remained hopeful that one day I would hear Archie (now aged 8) calling me “Daddy”. The simplest things in life are so often overlooked.

As for running I have always found the occasional run a fantastic way to clear the cobwebs and lift oneself. Thus the heavy heart feels a lot less heavy once the usual circuit of 8 miles or so, around the rather lethal lanes of north Buckinghamshire is completed.

I had in fact done the London Marathon back in 1998; a lifetime ago as far as my aging forty something body was concerned. Whilst I was intent on trying to raise £5,000 I was equally keen to try and beat my last time of 3 hours 57 minutes.

Whilst training during the dark cold winter months (that still persist as I write this) has been grueling, strangely the hardest thing for me was to press the ‘send’ button on my PC, to email to family, friends and work colleagues my begging letter for sponsorship.

Whilst of course friends and family knew of our circumstances, many at work did not. I had perhaps thought it would be simpler if colleagues at work did not know, and had sought to avoid letting on about the difficulties Archie and William faced.  I had a photo on my desk of our three happy smiling ‘normal’ children, and I enjoyed for some reason the fact that many of my colleagues just took the picture at face value. How wrong I was.

The spontaneous reaction from the email I sent was something I had not factored in at all. Whether it was the extraordinary generosity of some, or others emailing that they were desperately keen to support me, but would I mind waiting until ‘pay day’. I was equally moved. I guess you could say that this was my equivalent of coming out, and God did it feel good!

As far as the training is concerned I have so far been fortunate to remain uninjured, although am currently nursing a very heavy cold that makes running up the stairs seem a Herculean effort. But better to have it now than the week of the marathon.

Whilst I went through my fundraising target after only a week, I am not sure I will ever let my wife volunteer me into running another marathon. Hence any further support is massively appreciated.

There are only a handful of specialist speech and language schools in the UK and sadly many children who suffer never get access to the right support early on to help them. So if the idea of giving disadvantaged children a better chance in life chimes with you here’s your chance to give to a small but incredibly worthwhile charity (I CAN), and to provide such children a chance to lead a more “normal” life. Please do click on the link below; it should take no more than 2 minutes to donate.

And will your donation be well spent? Well since I sent my email out last October, Meath School has succeeded in developing Archie’s speech to the extent that he can now say the magic word “Daddy”….and that’s priceless.

* For those want to understand more about Worster Drought Syndrome please click on the following link: