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North West Norfolk MP James Wild discusses 2024 London Marathon in latest column

In his weekly column, North West Norfolk MP James Wild discusses tomorrow’s London Marathon…

On Sunday, I will join around 50,000 runners taking part in the London Marathon.

This is the largest annual fundraising event in the world, with more than £1billion raised for good causes since the first race in 1981.

MP James Wild is preparing for the London Marathon on Sunday
MP James Wild is preparing for the London Marathon on Sunday

Having run the marathon four times before, I know that having the motivation of helping a charity is a great spur in the tougher stages of the run (as is ‘Eye of the Tiger’ or Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself’ on the iPod!).

This year I am delighted to be raising funds for West Norfolk Autism Group - a small charity offering support to autistic people and their families.

It is run entirely by unpaid volunteers who are either parents or carers of autistic people or are autistic themselves to deliver events and activities including swimming, soft play, cinema trips and more.

They also organise training so people can better understand autism and campaign for local services.

There are around 700,000 autistic children and adults in the UK, and earlier this month Norfolk Autism Acceptance Week took place to raise awareness and understanding that every autistic person has their own personalities and skills.

In my two previous runs as a MP, I raised £9,500 in total for West Norfolk Carers, Pandora Project, Little Discoverers, West Norfolk Befriending, Purfleet Trust, and West Norfolk Deaf Association.

They are just a handful of some of the brilliant local charities that we have - and along with visits to schools, businesses, and other groups, I enjoy talking to charities about the issues they are addressing and where I can help.

After Easter, I was pleased to accept an invitation to the Friendship Café in Gaywood which meets every week to provide a welcoming space for people with dementia and their family and friends.

I also spent time visiting the Hunstanton Men’s Shed and chatted to the Shedders, who explained the positive impact of having a friendly space where they can meet up, practice their hobbies, learn new skills, and just have a chat.

Norfolk has more Sheds than any other county and the important role they play in tackling rural isolation is significant.

Charities play a very important role in our community and across the country precisely because they are made up of volunteers embedded locally, are flexible, committed, and passionate about making a difference.

I am often asked about access to funding and I would encourage groups to look at the National Lottery Community Fund.

Last year it gave grants of £767,029 to community projects in North West Norfolk, ranging from an award of £5,960 up to £415,021. The Men’s Shed, which has also secured a grant, explained how simple and speedy they found the application process.

Some readers may recall I said after the 2022 race I wouldn’t run it again. What can I say except there’s something about the challenge of a marathon that draws you in?

As a runner I enjoy getting out in the countryside or along the Great Ouse to train although it can be gruelling at time.

But the race, the crowds and then crossing the finishing line is an experience to savour.

Will this be my last? Maybe. I’ll certainly be taking part in the GEAR 10km in May.

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