Autistic runner's mission ahead of Adnams 10k this weekend
PUBLISHED: 15:49 14 November 2019 | UPDATED: 15:49 14 November 2019
Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2019
A runner is preparing to defy expectations when he joins hundreds of others at the start line of Southwold's annual 10k this weekend.
Rory Fairfoot was diagnosed with autism and severe learning disabilities as a youngster, leaving him with a limited understanding of language, names and social situations.
Yet ever since taking on his first parkrun event in 2012, the runner has conquered courses from 5ks to half marathons.
Mother Jenny Mayne said: "The Adnams 10k was the first formal race Rory ever did back in 2014. It is a great course with a great atmosphere.
"He really seems to enjoy the atmosphere of any race, despite not really understanding a lot. He seems to pick up on the buzz and always pushes himself a bit more, and he always seems pleased to get a medal at the end.
"The most obvious challenge is that Rory will not understand the distance we are running so I will simply tell him 'it's a long way'.
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"He won't be able to read any signs or understand instructions from marshals so he is reliant on a buddy in any race.
"The finish can be challenging as there is often excessive noise and that can sometimes cause a sensory overload, but I am extremely proud that he takes all these additional challenges in his stride."
Now with 191 parkruns under his belt, Mr Fairfoot, a member of the City of Norwich Athletic Club (CoNAC) will return to the first 10k course he completed back in 2014.
Ms Mayne, who will run with her son this weekend, said: "Rory doesn't really understand danger and has to have someone with him all the time. He has had to learn rules and routines for different situations and doesn't automatically pick up when these vary.
"Initially, he was confused at water stations. He probably wondered why we weren't handing over money and why you throw your cup down instead of finding a bin.
"He is lucky to have had amazing support from fellow runners, especially other members of CONAC.
"Running is a real social activity for Rory and has expanded his horizons. When Rory is training and racing, he is a very able runner rather than a young man with severe learning disabilities. He gets lots of positive interactions with other runners who find him endearing, and inspiring."
The Adnams 10k begins at 11am on Sunday, November 17 by the Harbour Inn, with runners finishing near the Red Lion Pub on South Green.