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N.C. man to run 750 miles for autism awareness; will end journey in Surfside Beach

N.C. man to run 750 miles for autism awareness; will end journey in Surfside Beach.
N.C. man to run 750 miles for autism awareness; will end journey in Surfside Beach.(WMBF)
Published: Apr. 4, 2021 at 5:30 PM EDT
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SURFSIDE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - A North Carolina man plans to run 750 miles through the Carolinas to raise awareness for autism.

Richard Sexton’s run starts later this month in Hothouse, N.C., which is about as far west as you can go in the state.

His journey will finish a month later in Surfside Beach.

Sexton has been running ultramarathons since the 1990s, but this will undoubtedly be his greatest challenge yet.

As if running 750 miles isn’t difficult enough, he’s making it even more challenging for himself by carrying a 25 lb. ball he nicknamed ‘Slappy.’

He said Slappy represents the extra weight parents with autistic children have to carry every day.

“I love this metaphor of kind of carrying the ball because it’s something you can’t put down, and it’s something I won’t put down, and that’s a day-to-day thing,” Sexton said.

Sexton is hoping to raise $50,000 for the Champion Autism Network (CAN), which is a Surfside Beach-based non-profit.

He’s teaming up with CAN’s executive director, and his longtime friend, Becky Large for the project.

Large said she was thrilled but also shocked to hear about Sexton’s idea of running across the Carolinas for her organization.

“What do you say to something like that? You’re just like, ‘You’re the best. Thank you. And why?’ You know there’s a little madness involved,” Large said, laughing.

But madness is exactly what Sexton thrives on.

An example of his training includes three straight days of running 17 miles with 25 lb. Slappy. He’s run as many as 80 miles in one week to train for the run.

While this is uncharted territory for Sexton, he’s not too concerned about the physical difficulties but more so the mental ones.

“I’ve not done multi-day events like this, so that’s going to be – mentally, I think it’ll be the big challenge on those days where you just don’t want to get up and do this thing,” Sexton said. “I think that is really going to be the tough part.”

But Sexton knows what he signed up for, and he said it’s the least he can do to help families with autistic children.

“I don’t want it to be easy,” he said. “Because the point is this is what represents the daily challenge of families with autism. They can’t put that ball down.”

Sexton’s run begins April 28 in Hothouse, N.C., and finishes May 26 in Surfside Beach.

To learn more about Sexton’s run and to donate to the Champion Autism Network, CLICK HERE.

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