Why triplet Sophie is running for her brothers

Public sector management consultant Sophie Ryan, who left RGS in 2017 to study history at the University of Edinburgh, explains why she's running to raise money for autism awareness, a subject very close to her heart*

(*She did it! See update, at end)

NEVER one to back down from a challenge, earlier this year I secured a charity place to run the London Marathon in April 2024. Since taking up running during lockdown of 2020, I have taken part in numerous 5km to 10km races and was keen to push myself further. This, along with my passion for spreading autism awareness, meant combining the two seemed like a logical step.

If you’ve ever asked me to tell you a ‘fun fact’ about myself, you’ll know I’m a triplet. I'm pictured here with my two brothers, Rob and Charlie, who the keen-eyed may notice are identical. Rob enjoys cinema and music and writing about both, while Charlie is an aspiring actor and enjoys writing his own scripts.

They both also have autism, and while they are two of the most self-sufficient 25-year-old men I know, life has consistently been an uphill battle for them. Unfortunately, despite increasing awareness around neurodiversity, the world is not equipped with the patience or empathy needed to make both the everyday and big life milestones accessible.

For the three of us, that most recent milestone was moving into the world of work. Granted, this is no easy feat for anyone, but when application processes are less human-centric than ever and guidance from higher education institutions minimal, it is a particularly frustrating and often disheartening experience for those who rely on time and understanding for a chance to show their value.

It’s for this reason that I’ll be running for Ambitious about Autism. Their aim is to create a more inclusive society where individuals with autism can thrive and reach their full potential through education, employment, and social inclusion initiatives. They run programmes such as ‘Employ Autism’ which encourages employers to create more inclusive workplaces and hire individuals with autism, and ‘Raise your Game’, helping young people with autism transition from education to employment by offering workshops, internships, and job coaching services.

To fundraise and train, I’m running around London (and occasionally home in North Yorkshire) with family and friends - many of whom are fellow RGS alumni - who know my brothers or have had other personal insights into the world of those with autism and the stigmas they face. During these runs we discuss these stigmas, with the aim of dispelling myths and spreading awareness. I then write up these discussions and post them on an Instagram page - @runfastforyourbrothers a platform to promote Ambitious about Autism’s core message further.

I’m working towards running the marathon in sub-four hours and aiming to raise £2,000. These are two challenging targets, but after considering the expectations and limits imposed on my brothers almost every day and the fact they surpass every one of them, running 42km is the very least I can do to show my admiration - they’re my heroes.

*Link to donate here

She did it!

Sophie with her brothers

Time: 4 hours 24 minutes

Money raised: £2,825

My experience of the London marathon was wonderful, I truly enjoyed every second of it - something I never thought I’d say about running 26.2 miles. I now completely understand why the London race is renowned for being one of the best. The unspoken camaraderie between runners, the cheers of hundreds of thousands of people in support of total strangers, the whole day attests to the very best of human nature.

Miles 21-26 were particularly gruelling for obvious reasons, but at that stage of running it’s entirely mind over matter. Thoughts of my lovely family and friends, who had all come out to watch, wading through crowds to catch me run past was the biggest drive forward (the promise of free pints after of course helped too). In particular I wanted to show my brothers, whom I was predominantly running for, that if I could run 42.2km without stopping, they can do anything. They should never feel constricted to society’s perceptions of what neurodivergent people can and can’t do, both in the workplace and wider life.

At the end of my 6 month fundraising and training cycle, I raised £2,825 for Ambitious About Autism, and ran the marathon in 4 hours 24 minutes, both achievements I will always be proud of. I also managed to beat the Hardest Geezer (the man who ran the whole length of Africa) by 1 minute - though I’m not sure he was taking the race quite so seriously. A huge thanks to anyone who donated, and I implore anyone who has ever thought about running any distance for charity to give it a go, you won’t regret it!

Spotting friends along the route