Olympic high jumper Jo Jennings-Summers is a Trustee of Ron Pickering Memorial Fund and here she explains why it’s more important than ever to ‘Run for Ron’
2021 marked a very special milestone for the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund as it is 30 years since the passing of Ron, the inspiration behind the Fund in supporting talented, up-and-coming young athletes within the UK. Even during the worst of the global pandemic, RPMF was still supporting young athletes, and some of those such as Keely Hodgkinson were able to shine at the delayed Tokyo Olympic Games. 2022 and the rescheduled London Marathon event in October, was the 30th of these great events where we had a group of dedicated “Ronners” taking part in order to raise money for young british athletes in need.
It is fair to say that without the support of the London Marathon and the platform that it provides for so many charities like the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund to raise money for good causes, that the RPMF would not be around today and been able to support the thousands of young athletes in their transition from Junior to Senior athletes. We are lucky to have benefitted from a special relationship with the London Marathon, as the two founders of the event over 40 years ago: Chris Brasher and John Disley, were teammates and fellow Olympic Medallists of a young Jean Desforges as she was then, in the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki. Ron Pickering himself was very much involved from the beginning of the Marathon as part of the BBC Broadcast Team. Indeed the 1991 London Marathon, shortly after Ron’s death, was dedicated to Ron, and Jean was honoured to be asked to act as the Official Starter for the race itself.
Chris and John were committed to the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund from that day and supported the Charity with a number of guaranteed places in the race each year, to help us raise funds, and we are delighted that Hugh Brasher, the current Event Director, and Chris’ son, has continued that support, although we are never sure how long this shall continue, so each race has more importance to us as a chance to raise funds.
Since Jean, Ron’s widow, set up the Fund in 1991, a total of over £2.5 million has been awarded to help support young athletes in overcoming barriers to their future success. Over two-thirds of many of the British senior major championship teams each year have at some stage been a recipient of a RPMF award, including Dina Asher-Smith, Laura Muir, Keely Hodgkinson, Katarina Johnson-Thompson, Jessica Ennis-Hill, Jake Wightman, Greg Rutherford, Mo Farah and fellow RPMF Trustee and friend Goldie Sayers.
Medallists from this Paralympic as well as World and European Championships European Para Athletics Championships such as Zak Skinner (T13 100m & long jump), Daniel Pembroke (F13 javelin) and Kayleigh Haggo (RR3 100m) are also fund recipients in the past.
I had the honour of becoming a Trustee of the Fund over 12 years ago. I had known Jean for many years – she was an ever-present figure at many athletics tracks and, as I found out that year, at the London Marathon expo too.
Jean cornered me and asked what I was up to and whether I’d like to become involved with the Fund. She was an expert in persuasion and I’m delighted that she picked me out for a chat over a cup of tea that day. Helping the next generation of British Athletes is something I am incredibly proud to still be a part of – previously via my role as development manager at British Athletics – and continuing now in my voluntary role over the years with the Fund.
The work of the Fund not only provides much needed financial support – something which is particularly important now in times when many family finances may have been negatively impacted by the pandemic and cost of living increases – but also a much needed confidence boost in knowing that an athlete’s talent has been recognised.
With the postponement of the London Marathon in 2020, we had huge support from many of our former Fund recipients with the various virtual events and the 2.6 Challenge, and the rescheduled 2022 Race did not have all of our possible places taken up so we have also taken a massive finiancial “hit” over the past few years. But to a great extent RPMF grants are funded each year by London Marathon runners fundraising by ‘running for Ron’ (our ‘Ronners’ as the Fund likes to call them) and it is their efforts which keep the Fund going each year and enable the support for so many young athletes.
READ MORE: Ron Pickering remembered
Therefore we are extremely determined that we can recruit a full team of enthusiastic and motivated fundraisers to Run for Ron (and the young athletes) in the 2023 London Marathon taking place on Sunday 23rd April 2023. There is plenty of time to prepare for the race, but also to raise as much money as possible for a great cause. This year we have a limited number of guaranteed places available and are inviting any Athletics fans, previous recipients, or their coaches, family or friends, to apply to run the London Marathon and fundraise for RPMF as part of the Run for Ron campaign.
The charity ask for a £100 up-front registration fee and then a fundraising target of a further £1400. Ronners usually then set up a fundraising page and embark on various ways to promote their London Marathon journey and fundraising. The Fund is able to support their social media promotion with photos (generously supported each year by Mark Shearman) and quotes from former Fund recipients, such as those above, highlighting the importance of this early recognition and support – a pat on the back or a helping hand, this award can make a big difference at a crucial time in a young athletes‘ development.
READ MORE: 5 reasons to Run for Ron
Teams of Ronners as well as individuals are invited to apply – please contact email@example.com if you are interested.