Many of our England Athletics registered athletes, coaches and RunTogether members take part in their local parkrun. One local Mencap RunTogether group has encouraged some of its members to take up the parkrun challenge. Matt Lett ran his first parkrun in August 2016 in 38:21 and he recently completed his 50th parkrun at Danson Park.
Matt has speech and language disabilities but that's never stopped him from running and enjoying being part of the parkrun community. Like anyone else, Matt thrives on encouragement and support, so it's great when so many runners say a friendly word or two either before, during or after the race. Especially, if he's about to overtake you!
Matt's self-appointed coach and one of the LiRF qualified leaders at Bexley Mencap RunTogether and Keep Fit group Nick Marsden explains; "When Matt ran his first parkrun, to be honest, I wasn't sure if he'd be coming back. So, every week Matt succeeds in surprising me but then I suppose it's probably not too much of an understatement to say that his whole life has been about surprising people about what he can do. For instance, to begin with I didn't think he'd ever run parkrun on his own without me. Talk about over-estimating my own importance! But it's a testament to the whole parkrun ethos and its runners, that he feels so welcome every Saturday."
And Matt's not alone. Since Matt started running, other Bexley Mencap members, such as Stefan, Luke and Emmanuel have also picked up the parkrun challenge.
"Early on I'd ask Matt if he wanted to stop running and have a break. He'd look at me and shake his head and just keep on running. In fact, he actually likes running uphill and I've never known him to stop during any race. Matt's remarkable consistent with a best time for parkrun of 33:21 and Tony 'the Timer' Colver usually clocks him in at around the 35 minute mark."
Matt might not speak much but understands more than you might realise, and he likes to relax afterwards with a coffee in The Stables and follow the conversation. He's also a mean left handed pool player and gets pretty animated when he beats me – which is pretty often.
Nick concludes, "I'm still working on how best to unlock another PB from him. Last year Matt stepped up his training and also ran two 10k competitive races so he continues to challenge himself and push to improve. Which is as much as any of us can ask for."