Special Olympics Derbyshire athlete, coach and Athlete Leadership Team member James Wyatt is stepping out in search of another huge challenge by tackling the TCS London Marathon.

James, who lives in Smalley near Heanor in Derbyshire, was diagnosed with autism, ADHD, epilepsy and a mild learning disability in childhood. Yet he has competed in sport at a national and international level and wants to be an inspiration for people with intellectual disabilities by demonstrating what can be achieved through sport.

In 2019 James won a bronze medal in badminton at the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi. He has also won Special Olympics GB National Summer Games in badminton as well as basketball and football. He’s now seeking to add a finisher medal for the TCS London Marathon to his impressive medal collection on Sunday 21 April.

“It’s very exciting to be part of such a prestigious running event,” said James.

“I only bought myself a proper pair of running trainers in lockdown and I didn’t really have a goal at the time. It was when things opened up that I took it seriously and joined Heanor Running Club.”

James’ running journey changed in 2022 when he signed up for the Derby 10K, where he recorded a time of 59 minutes and 15 seconds. That time soon came down with a 54:07 time in the Heanor Running Club Pudding Run before setting a new personal best in the Derby 10K last year with a time of 47:16.

James subsequently stepped up to Half Marathon distance and completed Derby’s own Ramathon, the Great North Run, the Robin Hood Half Marathon and the Manchester Half Marathon in 2023, recording a personal best time of one hour 41 minutes in the latter event.

“I only intended to run one half marathon last year, but I enjoyed the experience so much,” said James.

“Conversations just developed through the running club and we looked at more race.

“Running London is the ultimate event though. I initially applied through the ballot, which was unsuccessful, but the support of Special Olympics GB has helped me secure an entry.”

James will be one of two Special Olympics GB athletes who takes to the iconic start line in Greenwich Park in less than a month.

“It’s been quite a journey with Special Olympics GB,” said James. “I came into the movement during my time at Strathmore College, in Staffordshire, and I’ve not looked back.

“It’s given me more confidence and has really improved my social skills. By becoming more confident I can now travel independently and it’s helped me find my voice and express my opinions more.”

As well as competing, James was appointed to join Special Olympics GB’s Athlete Leadership Team last year. This elected group of 10 athletes acts as a voice for the 6,600 Special Olympics GB athletes across England, Scotland and Wales, and it regularly meets with the charity’s board to consult on strategic decisions.

“I’ve been the athlete representative for Special Olympics Derbyshire for several years, but it’s great to be able to impact on what we do at national level as well.”

As a leader, James is also a qualified badminton coach and an assistant basketball coach.

To build on his experience of winning a bronze medal at Abu Dhabi 2019, he formed Derbyshire All Stars Badminton Club with his Dad Anthony, where he coaches Special Olympics Derbyshire athletes every Wednesday evening.

“Winning the bronze medal at the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi made me want to support more people with intellectual disabilities and help them go on a similar journey to me,” added James.

“We’ve got nine members and we hosted our first competition last year, which had more than 70 athletes competing. We’re going to host it again this year.

“I would love for more of our athletes in Special Olympics Derbyshire to go through the Athlete Leadership training that I’ve done, as it will help them grow so much. I also want to show, that by running the London Marathon, that anything is possible. Hopefully it might inspire a few more athletes to take up running and join a local Running Club.

James is training very hard in his build up to London and is building his distance before tapering off ready for the big day.

“I’ve got some great support from Heanor Running Club and the marathon will be extra special for me as my sister also has a place.

“It’s going to be a fantastic day and I can’t wait to line up on the start line in the coming weeks.”

Derbyshire All Stars provides training and competition opportunities in badminton, for people with an intellectual disability, 7-9pm every Wednesday, outside of school holidays, at Derby Arena and Springwood Leisure Centre. For further information please visit Derbyshire All Stars online.