Ultra-runner hopes Grand Union Canal Race can inspire others on autism spectrum following Asperger's diagnosis
When Suffolk fitness instructor Jay Close sets off on Britain's 'longest, toughest' endurance race a week today, it will be no more than three months since realising he had been contesting a lifelong challenge.
It was only after entering the Grand Union Canal Race, that the 43-year-old was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and decided to inspire other people on the autism spectrum.
Mr Close, who runs the TheFitness-Project with wife Caroline in Woodbridge, said: “The diagnoses came about much as a result of running a business and encountering difficulties.
“It came as quite a relief to understand who I actually am. It was a weight off my shoulders.
“Caroline’s support has been amazing, and I hope to encourage other people like me to achieve anything.
“We work with a GP referral team, and I now feel I can put across to clients what I have been through.”
Mr Close has recently been running between 80 and 90 miles each week in preparation for the race from Birmingham to London.
“I could be running six, seven, or even eight hours at a time,” he said.
“My head is usually full of things for the first one or two, but it gradually becomes a form of self-help – my daily therapy.
“It’s been quite a gruelling schedule, with several injuries to contend with – but that hasn’t stopped me.
“Thousands apply for the race but only 150 take part.”
The 145-mile route starts from Birmingham’s canal-side Gas Street Works.
Mr Close will have to cover almost half that distance inside the first 19 hours to avoid disqualification, and must complete the entire distance within 45 hours.
The father-of-two hopes to finish in between 38 and 42 hours.
“Sleep will be limited,” he said. “I think stopping to even snooze could be dangerous – I think my body would just say ‘uh-uh’. I’ll be booking a few days off afterwards to catch up.”
Mr Close will also be heading to the Sahara desert next year to run the Marathon des Sables for the second time. He is hoping to raise money from both runs to support other people living with Asperger’s syndrome.
For more on his ultra-runs, or to donate sponsorship, visit thefitness-project.co.uk.