Electrician running London Marathon for National Autistic Society bounces back from training collapse to smash Sandy 10 race

PUBLISHED: 08:28 29 March 2017 | UPDATED: 15:20 29 March 2017

National Autistic Society fundraiser Ricky Byrne running the Sandy 10 on Sunday. Photo: Sally Jones

National Autistic Society fundraiser Ricky Byrne running the Sandy 10 on Sunday. Photo: Sally Jones

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A Sandy electrician who is set to run a marathon in aid of autistic youngsters brushed off passing out during training last Thursday to smash the town's 10-mile race at the weekend.

National Autistic Society fundraiser Ricky Byrne with his eight-year-old son Frankie. Photo: Courtesy of Ricky ByrneNational Autistic Society fundraiser Ricky Byrne with his eight-year-old son Frankie. Photo: Courtesy of Ricky Byrne

Ricky Byrne, 33, collapsed from dehydration after straining to beat his personal best last week, and was found unconscious by his wife Kelly on the side of the road.

But determined Ricky – who is running the London Marathon for the National Autistic Society, a cause close to his heart – bounced back for the Sandy 10 on Sunday.

He told the Comet afterwards: “I was racing for my personal best, and my wife essentially saved my life.

“She took my location from my iPhone and found me unconscious.

“We went back to the gym and called an ambulance, but I just needed to eat and drink – I’m all good now.”

Ricky, whose two younger children Ronnie and Joycie are both on the autistic spectrum, has so far raised £3,220 for the charity – with donations coming in from as far off as the United States.

He said: “I’m doing my bit for other people’s children who may be on the spectrum as well.”

Ricky was inspired to start running in late 2015, when he was seriously out of shape and started having a recurring nightmare about something chasing him.

Sandy's Ricky Byrne with fellow National Autistic Society fundraiser Elizabeth Ayres. Photo: Ricky ByrneSandy's Ricky Byrne with fellow National Autistic Society fundraiser Elizabeth Ayres. Photo: Ricky Byrne

“One day I couldn’t get away and thought I need to do something about this. I went to the gym and started running,” he said.

“It got to a point last year when I thought you don’t get much bigger than the London Marathon – something for the bucket list – and I just thought why not?

“I’ve been quite overwhelmed by the support. Trying to raise money like this is really demanding – you don’t realise how much is involved with a marathon. This will probably be my last one because it’s just so much work, but it’s been great.”

Between regular workouts at Elite Physique Training in Stockton End, Ricky has been building up the distance with other runs – including regular 5km and 10km stints, the Silverstone Half Marathon on March 12, and Sunday’s Sandy 10.

He was trying to set a personal best time for 10km when he collapsed while training on Thursday evening.

He told the Comet: “I dropped my eight-year-old son Frankie off at Biggleswade Athletic Club and the instructor was late – so I had 55 minutes to do 10km.

“I set off at a good pace and on the return leg I had a heart rate at 145 beats per minute. When I was coming to the end of my run I was looking at my watch and I thought I’m nearly there, so I ran like stink for the last mile.

“I stopped running and I think it was just the shock – I collapsed and I think my heart went over 200 beats per minute. I went down on the floor for two or three minutes.

“I then woke up and I struggled across the road like an alcoholic. I felt like I was drunk and everything seemed to be spinning. Then for a second time I collapsed.

“I was by the road under the A1, behind Frontiers agriculture. I sent my location from my iPhone to my wife.

“Meanwhile several cars drove past and didn’t stop – one person even walked past and didn’t stop, ignoring my cry for help.

“When my wife arrived a passer-by did jump out and help me into the car. We went back to the gym, then they called an ambulance and they did some checks.

“I’m well now – hydrated and renourished – and hope to continue to my London Marathon place on April 23.”

Ricky’s determination clearly runs in the family. Frankie fell and hurt himself during the Sandy 3km fun run on Sunday, but battled back to finish the course.

Numerous backers have come out to support Ricky with donations and goodwill – including Susan Wheatcroft of Virtual Runner, who has put in £1,300, and North East Beds MP Alistair Burt, who wrote to Ricky out of the blue to commend him on his efforts.

“I met him at the Sandy 10 and it was nice to put a name to the face,” said Ricky.

“I just said I’d like to thank him, and he shook my hand and wished me all the best.

“The letter was on official paper from the House of Commons – and it was a personal letter, I could see he’d written it himself.”

Mr Burt said: “I was delighted to see Ricky at the Sandy 10, and he put in a remarkable performance, bearing in mind how his training has been going. I also met his lovely family. They are rightly proud of dad!

“Having run the London Marathon, I know he is in for a truly great day, running with thousands of other champions for their causes. I hope he gets lots of local support as he raises the awareness of autism.”

Other donations have come from Ricky’s dad Roger’s firm First Bike on Scene, Stephen Ramsden of the Charlie Bates Solar Astronomy Project in Atlanta, Babs Morse of All Seasons Boutique in Sandy, and Luke Janes of Sign Post UK Ltd in Tadlow – who has provided free T-shirt design and printing.

If you’d like to donate to Ricky’s cause, see justgiving.com/RickyByrne.

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