We are so proud of our Joseph as he prepares to run 100k across Europe in five days!

Words John Edwards

JOSEPH Adams was born with Down Syndrome and low muscle tone that meant his third birthday was fast approaching before he was able to walk unaided.

He was also born with levels of determination that continue to astound everyone who knows him and which he hopes will stand him in good stead for a challenge that is going to stretch him to the absolute limit in a few months' time.

Joseph has decided he is going to run a marathon. Not any old marathon, either.

On Tuesday, August 27th, he will catch a flight to Paris and arrive in time to spend the afternoon running 10 kilometres in and around the French capital. Of course, that's more like a half-marathon than a full one, except Joseph doesn't do things by halves.

The next morning, he will be up and about and ready to run another 10k before lunch followed by a further 10k in the afternoon, each one of them in different countries, and the schedule for days three, four and five will be exactly the same, culminating in a flight back to Manchester to compete in the Altrincham 10k on the morning of Sunday September 1st.

That's a dizzying, mind-boggling, stamina-sapping total of 100,000 metres, or just over 62 miles in old measurements, across 10 countries in exactly five full days. The equivalent of well over two marathons, in fact!

Oh, and, talented though he is at a variety of sports, he's not particularly enamoured with running and had never covered more than a mile in one go before he started training a couple of weeks ago.

It sounds like the ultimate example of Mission Impossible, but Dad Phil insists this is one ferociously committed young man who has already thrown himself into a training routine aimed at gradually increasing his running capability to ensure he is fully prepared for a fund-raiser that is particularly close to his heart.

An ardent Alty fan who was with the 700 at Bromley a week last Sunday, Joseph volunteers in Alty's town centre retail shop every Wednesday and cares deeply about all aspects of our club, including the sterling work done by the Community Trust to promote and improve access to sport for disabled people in the region.

With that in mind, he needed no persuading to commit to what is being billed as "Joseph's Challenge - No Limits", with a goal of raising £100,000 in sponsorship to help facilitate the running of a thriving and effective disability sports programme by the club's community staff.

But why the longest of long-distance runs, the one sporting pastime he doesn't much care for? Thereby hangs a tale of a 21-year old who has always relished a challenge and is shaping up for one now in the hope it will inspire others with and without special needs to adopt his No Limits outlook on life.

Dad Phil, himself an Alty season ticket holder and part of a group of local investors who backed the club with a significant investment last year, provided an insight into Joseph's extraordinary mental resolve by saying: "When Joseph was born at Trafford General, he was in special care for three weeks with breathing difficulties, and we had to listen to and read about a long list of things he might not be able to do. We were more interested in finding out what he could do, rather than imposing limits, and that has been our approach with Joseph ever since.

"We tried him in the pool, for instance, and he has become a great swimmer, a British Down Syndrome champion, in fact, and now he we are going to see if he can run 10k twice a day for five days in the hope it will encourage people to think differently about people with a disability and start looking at what they can do, rather than what they can't.

"We could have done a swim challenge, but we know he can swim. We want to find out if he can run distances. That's the theme for this event – exploring whether you can achieve the unexpected when you don’t set limits.

"We'll fly to Paris initially, then we'll do each 10k in a different country, travelling from one to another by mini-bus and taking in the likes of Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Germany before rounding it off with the Altrincham 10k, which will take us past Alty's ground. That's going to be a special moment.

"It's doable but it's going to be tough, not least because he has always hated running and had literally never run more than a mile before. But that's the point, really. There's nothing like a challenge for bringing the best out of him, and when I mentioned the idea, he gave me a nod and said 'yeah, I'm up for that'.

"It's not a given that he will get through it all, but he is a fit, young man who swims three or four times a week, and his training regime is already well underway, so why not give it a go for a great cause ? He is very, very competitive and I really hope he will be able to do it, albeit at his own pace.

"He's been churning out 2, 3 and 4k runs for the last couple of weeks, all to the sound of his favourite rock music, and he did his first 5k on Saturday at the Wilmslow ParkRun. I walked by him training the other day, and he was belting out The Final Countdown at the top of his voice!

"It's about doing it incrementally, increasing the distance he runs from 10k to 15 and then 20 per week, building it up gradually, then trying him on two runs per day so he becomes acclimatised to what that feels like and is hopefully ready and prepared for day one in Paris.

"He's going to have the family with him, urging him on as well. His mum Julie is a proper distance runner and will be alongside him, I'll do as much as my dodgy ankle will allow and his sisters Eleanor, Megan and Grace also plan to join him, so he won't be short of encouragement."

What other qualities, apart from fitness, will help him through this most gruelling of endurance tests?

"Determination, for one thing," said Phil. "If he sticks at something and really sets his mind to it, there is no-one more determined. I run a Down Syndrome tennis programme at our local club, and when Joseph first played, he couldn't hit a ball. If you watch him now, there's every chance you'll see him participate in a 20-shot rally. It has taken him much longer than someone without special needs, but he got there.

"It's about having the right teacher as well, one who will push him. At the first swimming club he went to, they were too soft with him. They didn’t have any expectations and he got nowhere. So we switched to a Special Olympic Club called Cheshire Penguins, and they said to us: 'Look, you are going to have to trust us because, at times, it will look like we are drowning him'.

"Within a month, he was doing lengths and within six months he was competing in galas, all because their expectations were high and he responded to it. In a nutshell, that is the theme of what we are doing with this run - why not find out what someone is capable of?

"By having that mindset, we've discovered that Joseph is very competitive, that he was able to get himself super fit and that he could do things we never thought he could, like play tennis and cricket and other sports and go skiing. If we had just accepted those would all be beyond him, we would never have found out.

"Now we'll find out what he's like at distance running. We just felt that if we were looking to make a difference and raise a serious amount of money for the club's Foundation, it had to be something that other people, even without a disability, couldn't easily accomplish. It couldn't just be a run round the park. This is a proper challenge, and we will hopefully raise a lot for a very worthwhile cause.

"Joseph is the most positive person I have ever met. His personality is very much 'I'm going to do this', and so many people are motivated by that.

"His sister Eleanor went to a dance college and had to do a presentation one day, based on someone she found inspiring. She didn't talk to us about it, she just did it. But when she got home, she told us it had been on Joseph.

"He inspires all of us. If ever we have felt low, he has provided the inspiration to lift our spirits. He is so positive. Every morning, he is up and at it, ready for whatever the day might bring.

"He was devastated last Sunday when we lost the play-off semi-final at Bromley. But, Monday morning, the smile was back and it was 'right, next season we go one better.' He just looks forward all the time, which is a great attribute to have.

"We are big Alty fans and get to as many games as we can. Julie's Dad also loves coming to games and is a season ticket holder, like Joseph and myself. We are an Alty family, and when I heard about the club's Community Trust and the need for funds for a disability sports programme, I just thought here's a specific project where we can raise a block of money.

"We have already had some sizeable pledges, so are on our way - £100,000 is as daunting at 100,000 metres but we are determined we will reach our target somehow."

One last question, Phil. Just imagine Joseph has jogged past The J.Davidson Stadium on Sunday September 1st and successfully completed the 100k course - is it possible to put into words the emotion you will feel? A slight pause followed as he looked away for a moment and composed himself - a lump in the throat, perhaps?

"Just a bit," he admitted before adding: "I would be super proud of him, which I am anyway - he is a very special young man. It's that thing about demonstrating that you can push boundaries.

"The feedback we always get from everyone is that he really is quite inspiring. His family, friends, coaches and teachers love the attitude he has, and I'm hoping that will help him over the line.

"He will have lots of encouragement, that's for sure, and if he doesn’t complete it, it won't be for lack of effort!."

To support Joseph in his challenge click here to donate.

To make a general donation to Altrincham FC Community Sports click here

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