A team of runners will be donning their gold acceptance vests and pulling on their trainers this weekend as they take part in the Great North Run in support of North East Autism Society.

Staff and supporters alike have pledged to complete the 13-mile race - which sees runners take to the streets of Newcastle and Gateshead in their thousands - in aid of the Society, to help us continue funding our vital autism-specific services across the region.

From raising awareness of autism to overcoming personal hurdles, our 2021 runners share the personal reasons why they have signed up to take part in the world-famous race.

I’m running for my daughter

“This is my daughter Amelia, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of four.

North East Autism Society helped straight away after diagnosis with workshops to help me better understand my daughter’s needs, as I didn’t know much about autism.

“Thanks to them, I was able to learn so much about her sensory needs and even after so many years I still continue to learn things from North East Autism Society and receive help – from them answering a million questions to dropping off sensory packs to my door during lockdown. Amelia is my motivation to raise funds for a charity that helped us so much so they can continue to help others.”

Rebecca, parent and supporter

Training gave me a positive focus

"I have completed 28 Great North Runs and, whenever I can, I have run for the society and their many events over the years. I have abseiled, zip wired, and even jumped out of a plane on behalf of the Society. This year however is special to me personally.

I was recently diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer that required surgery to remove the prostate. This operation happened in late April, and the way I dealt with this was to focus on something positive whilst trying to regain my fitness.

"As lockdown and restrictions were being eased my focus became the GNR especially as NEAS were putting a team forward to complete the 13.1 miles. It seemed an obvious choice that as the society had supported me so well through a dark time in my life, I don my autism acceptance vest and represent the society once again. I know it will be tough but this is my story - I will take part and I will bloody finish!"

Grainger Simpson, Operations Manager at NEAS

We want to inspire our colleagues to take part

"Training is going slow this year but it's really just about taking part and having fun and seeing if I can raise some money for NEAS.

"I've ran the Great North Run twice before. 2005 raising money for the RSPCA and 2011 for PDSA, with my fastest time for a half marathon being 2hr 6 mins. I've ran the Warwick half, Robin Hood Half and Launceston Half in my younger days. So this year it's just for fun.

"A lot of my younger work colleagues said they will definitely run it next year. They need to keep their word now! I know who they are!!

"Kerris and I have encouraged each other on training runs sending our Fitbit results of run."

Katherine Carter, support worker, and Kerris Bewick, team leader, from Adult Short Breaks 

Tackling my first half marathon

"I'm an autistic adult who finally got an official diagnosis earlier this year. I have two autistic step-children and found out about the local sources of support in the North-east from other parents with autistic kids. In one of these groups I met Kieran Rose, the Autistic Advocate, and heard about his work with NEAS and their involvement in the drive towards changing awareness to acceptance as regards autistic people with the 'Going for Gold' campaign.

"I'm in the NEAS Family Networking Facebook group run by Kerrie and Becca as it is a good source of information and support. I've not really done anything concrete to support NEAS before apart from sharing their social media posts.

"I got into running in 2017 in an effort to holdback middle-aged weight gain and keep myself active.  I did the Couch to 5k with Leadgate Village Area Runners in September that year and have been a regular at Blackhill parkrun pretty much ever since, either running or volunteering.

This is my first GNR and also my first half marathon. In fact it's my first race over 5k! My training is going ok according to everyone I've talked to, even though I only got my act together to start any sort of plan a few weeks after the recommended 12 week minimum. This wasn't helped by having the first 6 months of this year mostly off running due to plantar fasciitis issues.

"My goal this year is just to finish, a bonus would be to run all the way. It could take a while though as I'm more tortoise than hare.

"I'm not really sure what will be motivating me to keep going on the day. It could be the thought of chocolate or the sense of achievement to be gained from finishing."

Louise Robson, autistic adult and supporter

I've taken part in every Great North Run!

"Back in 1981 I was about to take a step into the unknown. On 28 June, I and 12,000 other runners embarked on our first Great North Run. Whilst I was not a runner, when I finished I was convinced that I could do better so signed up for the 1982 Great North Run. Fast forward to 2021 and I am still signing up.

"Unfortunately a succession of injuries mean that for the first time in 40 years I won’t be fit enough to run the 13 miles so I will have to jog/walk instead. I’ll be easy to spot as I will be dressed as a Lego brick!

To mark the occasion of my 40th GNR I have decided to take the opportunity to raise money for 3 charities that are close to me, North East Autism Society, Cancer Research UK, Dementia UK.

"It’s a big ask raising money for one charity, never mind three but I am hoping that everyone’s generosity will mean that each of these charities will be able to benefit from this year’s run. A sincere thank you to everyone who donates. It is a well used saying, but very true, that every donation, no matter how small, will make a difference."

Michael Gowland, parent and supporter

Donate to Team NEAS here