Michael Beynon has made history by becoming the first athlete from Wales who has Down’s syndrome, to complete the Virtual London Marathon. Despite his family being warned by doctors 10 years ago that he was likely to need a wheelchair for most of his adult life, Michael, 25, who also has a visual impairment and muscle condition, completed the 26.6 miles raising thousands of pounds for charity in the process.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Michael could not run on the streets of London as planned, but completed the marathon on two of his favourite training paths in Wales.
We caught up with Michael just after the challenge…
How are you feeling about being the first person from Wales who has Down’s syndrome to complete the Virtual London Marathon? I feel excellent and proud!
How did you feel when you crossed the finish line? I felt very emotional but happy it was finished. I felt a bit tired but I really enjoyed it and my body felt good.
Was there any tears? Yes, lots! We all had some tears, me and mum… my step-dad Steve ran away so he didn’t cry!
What did you do to celebrate on Sunday evening? I had my favourite – Chinese! I had ‘quack quack’ – duck – with my family at home.
26.2 miles is such a long way – was it difficult on your legs? Yes it was! But the next day I was up dancing and celebrating for fun.
Did you have people that ran with you? Yes… it was helpful. I had Katie my personal assistant, mum and Steve in the morning and in the afternoon, I was also joined by friends – Ffion, David, Steph, Kerry, Evie and Helen… loads of people! And my gran came… but she didn’t run. She cheered on the finish line!
What kept you going when things got tough? Me and Katie were singing, and I was having competitive races up the hills. I was being a Billy Goat racing people up them. Having my friends with me also helped.
What was the hardest part of the run? The rain and wind! The wind was making me fly like Mary Poppins… but it was going the wrong way so it wasn’t helping. It was really bad weather as we were running against the wind and rain.
How was your training? I have been doing lots of ‘virtual races’ during lockdown with Katie and Steve and mum. And I got medals for doing them. I’ve got tonnes of medals now… one was running up Mount Kilimanjaro and back – it has an elephant on it – and one has a sloth on it, two of my favourite animals. I have one with a rainforest and one called the ‘Best Buddy’ run which I did with Katie. I also did the Welsh half marathon and the John O’Groats one – that was more than 1,000 miles.
Did your legs ache the day after the marathon? No, not at all! I was dancing the day after, then I did a 5k walk on Tuesday, and a 10k walk on Wednesday and a HITT workout on Thursday. Later I’m doing some Spanish dancing…
Tell us about your business COALPIT Welsh Cakes… I make black Welsh cakes. Customers like them so I started to make them with mum. We then started my business of COALPIT Welsh Cakes. They taste yummy! The miners would have put Welsh cakes in their pockets years ago and they were usually brown, but I said if it had been in their pockets, they would have been black because of all the dust! So I decided to make unique ‘black’ Welsh cakes instead. I help mum make the Welsh cakes and I like putting the stickers on the parcels. I feel very proud to have a business and be Welsh. They taste nice with Welsh tea.
Apart from running, do you have any more hobbies? Skiing, dancing, and making Welsh cakes!! I was skiing in the Special Olympics in Switzerland in February this year and I won more medals. I also like sketching… my favourites are of the seaside and landscapes.
What are your favourite films? Moulin Rouge, Mary Poppins and Hercules.
What’s your favourite type of music? Jazz, show music, Ed Sheeran, Shakira and Queen. My favourite dance to do when we are out running is the Time Warp – ‘jump to the left’!
Now you have completed the marathon, are you going to take on a new challenge? Yes! I just signed up to do a virtual running tour around Iceland, 884 miles! But I’m doing it as part of a team with mum and Steve.
What are your hopes for the future? To have a chocolate factory! Working with COALPIT Welsh Cakes and having a big factory of my own. Welsh cakes and chocolate!
And finally, what would you say to someone else who has Down’s syndrome who would like to take on a big challenge but is not sure they can do it? Believe in yourself. Never let anyone say you can’t do it. Try, try, try again!