11-year-old boy with autism is running his own marathon to raise money

Daniel Shiels, 11, is running a socially-distant marathon over the course of a week to raise money for charity during the coronavirus lockdown.

Daniel, from Kilkeel, Northern Ireland, has severe autism and learning difficulties.

So far he has run 20.6 miles over the last four days, all carried out following social distancing rules which ask people to stay two metres apart.

His efforts have raised £888 for Run For Autism H.A.N.D, a charity based in Newry, so far. The money he raises will help autism and learning disability groups struggling for funds after the coronavirus pandemic.

While he’s sticking to social distancing guidelines, Daniel isn’t taking on the challenge alone. His 13-year-old brother Michael and their parents, Bernarde and Michael Shiels, are running the marathon alongside him.

Daniel’s dad told PA: ‘Exercise is very important to us as a family, for mental health and getting the fresh air.’

Daniel has always enjoyed getting out in nature. At the age of five he climbed the highest mountain in Northern Ireland, Slieve Donard, with a broken arm.

‘We just say, “we’re going up the mountain” and he’s at the door waiting to go into the car,’ says Michael.

‘It’s not always plain sailing, but we try to get him out to show him that we can achieve these things by just putting a bit of effort in.’

Michael, a sales manager, and Bernarde, who works in catering, both love to run in their spare time.

Through Daniel’s marathon, they wanted to show that children with autism ‘can excel in different areas’.

While lockdown has been a struggle for many, Daniel’s father said: ‘The thing about families with special needs, we’re somewhat socially isolated all year round.’

Sean Quinn, founder of the charity, called Daniel ‘a magical wee man’.

‘He doesn’t realise it, but he’s inspiring so many young people to do the same,’ he added.

Daniel is due to complete the remaining 5.6 miles of his marathon in the coming days.

He’ll donate £26.20 (as a marathon is 26.2 miles) of his own pocket money when he finishes the challenge.

If you’d like to donate to Daniel’s mission, you can do so through JustGiving.

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