Joe Payton has good reason to celebrate his 40th birthday this year. Joe completed Run Away: Hawke’s Bay International Marathon over the weekend and succeeded in more ways than one.
Joe was running for his son, Otis, who turns 10 this year and has Down syndrome. Otis, like many kids with Down syndrome, faced an uphill battle learning to communicate.
A combination of low muscle tone, a larger tongue inside a smaller oral cavity, and intellectual developmental delay, make it much harder for kids with Down syndrome to learn to speak.
So, in 2011 when Otis was only an infant, the Payton whanau became members of the UpsideDowns Education Trust, a charity that provides speech language therapy for kids with Down syndrome.
“While I was out running one day, I thought, I turn 40 this year and Otis turns 10, so it would be good to do something to celebrate this ‘milestone’. I thought it would be a good idea to raise money for the UpsideDown Education trust as they have supported Otis with speech language therapy over the years,” said Joe.
He set himself the huge fundraising goal of $10,000, and to inspire donors to ‘go big’ themselves, aimed to complete the marathon in under 3 hours, something fewer than 4% of male runners achieve.
“It all seemed pretty simple, train hard and run as hard as I could and I was reasonably confident I could get under the 3-hour mark, but about 5 weeks into a 12-week training programme, my left calf muscle started tightening up and I would get minor tears which meant I couldn’t run,” said Joe.
Only a week out, Joe was fearing the worst but got the tip from his brother-in-law to roll a golf ball under his foot which released all the tension in his calves.
“I felt like I might be able to actually run it,” said Joe.
“I didn’t get under 3hrs, but I couldn’t have gone any faster. It’s been an awesome experience and I hope the money raised has a real impact on the kids that need speech language therapy and their families,” said Joe who raised over $13,000 for kids like Otis.
“That’s enough to provide speech therapy for a child with Down syndrome for their whole primary school education. It’s an extraordinary achievement for an individual fundraiser – by far the biggest I’ve seen in my time with UpsideDowns,” says Sarah Paterson-Hamlin, Operations Manager of UpsideDowns.