Nineteen-year-old Special Olympics Great Britain athlete Lloyd Martin is bidding to become the youngest known person with Down Syndrome to complete the TCS London Marathon.

Lloyd, who lives in Camberley in Surrey and will join 50,000 runners at the start line in Greenwich Park on 21 April, is an active gymnast and footballer through the Special Olympics GB movement, training at Prime Acrobatics in Woking and Ascot United Warriors Football Club. He was also part of the Topgolf pilot programme last year, which had weekly sessions at Topgolf Surrey.

His journey to 26.2 miles would cap a remarkable achievement after undergoing surgery on his knees in 2021 and a scenario presented soon after his birth that he may never be able to walk.

“There were a few people who questioned whether Lloyd could do it when he was awarded his marathon place last autumn,” said his Mum Ceri Hooper, who is his guide runner for the event.

“He hadn’t experienced running more than the regular 5km (3.1 miles) for Park Run events, and it was less than four years ago that he had two pins removed from his legs after undergoing surgery.

“However, he’s not missed a training session and has been out there running in every condition possible, whether it’s been bitterly cold or pouring with rain. He’s now reached 17 miles and is in a great place ready to add those extra miles with a month to go.”

Lloyd was diagnosed with Down Syndrome and a hole in his heart soon after birth.

“We were given so many negative scenarios of what life could be like for Lloyd,” said Ceri.

“We were told that he might not be able to walk, to talk, feed himself and that there could be so many challenges to overcome.

“I’m from a very sporty family, and I believed that Lloyd could defy the stereotypes that you see for children born with Down Syndrome. We all wanted him to be able to benefit from sport in the way that so many of us do.

“There was a large network of new parents in the NCT group that I was part of, so I signed us up for everything that others were doing, whether it be dance, music, gymnastics or other classes. We fitted in lots of activities around Lloyd’s medical appointments each week. Whilst it might have taken him a bit longer to learn than other children, he developed so many different skills.

“He was a little ball of energy as a child. He would spend hours bouncing on his trampoline in the garden and loved to sing and dance.

“Like many other children with Down Syndrome, he was flexible and he could do the splits as a toddler. His Dad was a gymnast and, given that Lloyd showed so much potential, so we took him to classes. He loved it and gymnastics remains his favourite sport to this day.”

After undergoing ultrasound treatment with his Cariologist, aged 13, Lloyd was advised that the hole in his heart had closed and that he wouldn’t require surgery.

Following these results, Lloyd joined several friends and family members at local Park Run event. After his leg operation in 2021, he began playing football, competing in gymnastics and, more recently, enjoying Topgolf through the Special Olympics movement.

“Lloyd’s schoolteacher was creating a football team, with Ascot United and Special Olympics GB, for local people with intellectual disabilities,” said Ceri.” He jumped straight in and it’s been fantastic for the athletes and families.

“They train at the Racecourse Ground every Sunday evening, but also meet regularly for coffees, go shopping together and socialise so much as a result of the team’s formation.

“Lloyd also started training at Prime Acrobatics in Woking, which has helped him move towards competing in gymnastics events that are part of the Special Olympics GB competition programme.”

Last October Lloyd competed for the first time in all six artistic men’s gymnastics disciplines – floor, vault, pommel, rings, parallel bars and high bar – at the British Gymnastics Disability Championships in Lilleshall, Shropshire.

“Lloyd had not really worked on the bar or rings before joining Prime Acrobatics a year earlier, so to be there competing in all six disciplines was a great achievement in itself. However, he came back with a gold in the vault.

“It’s given him confidence to push himself and compete more. He would love to go to a World Games one day, so fingers crossed that the opportunity arises.”

Back to London preparations and Lloyd can be found pounding the pavements of Camberley three times each week.

“We started increasing his runs slightly, from the Park Run three miles, in December,” said Ceri. “We started adding more miles after Christmas and incorporated speed work on the treadmill. We’ll stretch to 20 miles soon, before tapering down ready for the big day.

“He’s been so committed since he first said he said to me ‘let’s do it’ last autumn. It’s been an amazing journey and it’s wonderful to see him thriving in so many different sports and event.”

Support Lloyd's fundraising

By running the London Marathon, Lloyd is raising fund for Special Olympics Great Britain and Stepping Stones DS. Click to sponsor.