‘Jack’s smile at the 10k is why we run’

Jack Johnson, the inspiration behind Joining Jack being pushed in his wheelchair by mum Alex (right) and her friend Andrea Kent
Jack Johnson, the inspiration behind Joining Jack being pushed in his wheelchair by mum Alex (right) and her friend Andrea Kent

TWO years ago, Wigan enjoyed perhaps one of its greatest years in the limelight.

From success in the sporting world with the Warriors’ remarkable double and Latics’ historical FA Cup victory to the opening of the incredible Wigan Youth Zone.

Runners head through the park during Sunday's Wigan 10k

Runners head through the park during Sunday's Wigan 10k

It was also the year that the first Wigan 10k took place. With modest aims at first, Matt Johnson – the uncle of Joining Jack inspiration Jack Johnson – set up an event that would not only raise money for the charity close to his heart but for so many others too.

The inaugural Wigan 10k was a roaring success, leaving Matt and his team with genuine worry about how they could top it. But they did. And then some.

Last year was even bigger but Sunday’s surpassed the wildest of expectations.

Just shy of 3,500 people took part, backing up the award the event got earlier this year to signal it as one of the best in the UK.

Our reporter Greg Farrimond crosses the finish line

Our reporter Greg Farrimond crosses the finish line

That reputation has seen many come from across the country, from the highlands of Scotland to the south coast of Devon and even abroad.

And it’s easy to see why.

Yes I’m biased and yes I speak today as a proud Wiganer, but you’d struggle to find an atmosphere as electric as the one on Sunday.

Once again the hairs stood on the back of my neck as the thousands taking part raised their hands to signal the Joining Jack salute on the start line and then the roar and cheers of the ridiculous amount of people lining the streets couldn’t fail to make you smile.

The front page of this week's Wigan 10k souvenir pull-out

The front page of this week's Wigan 10k souvenir pull-out

It’s just a shame that the nature of the event prevents you from stopping and soaking it all in!

The only thing that you can’t credit to the brilliant organisers, the remarkable volunteers and the wonderful general public was the glorious weather.

I do hope I’m not tempting fate for next year but to have such wonderful conditions three years in a row, at a time of year where rain becomes even more frequent, is one hell of a stroke of luck.

But the success of the day and what it creates is no fluke. It’s down to months of planning and hard work (actually a full year, preparations for 2016 are already under way!) plus one hell of an effort on the day itself.

What makes the Wigan 10k like no other event in the town though is that everyone plays a huge part. From Matt and his team making the event happen, to those who so willingly give up their time to marshall the event, hand out water and entertain the masses.

Then on top of that you have the kind-hearted runners and equally generous supporters.

There is a serious reason behind the day, of course.

And that is the incredible amount of money that the day raises for so many causes.

One of the most humbling sights was little Jack being pushed in his wheelchair by his mum Alex.

For those who don’t know, the seven-year-old has Duchenne muscular dystrophy. It is a nasty illness that will eat away at his muscles as he gets older. Sadly, his family have this year had to purchase his first wheelchair. It’s the first real sign of deterioration that we, as the general public, have seen and it is hard-hitting.

While there’s an incredible sense of sadness at this heart-wrenching image, you just look at that broad smile on his face and you can’t help but smile yourself.

It’s a reminder why we come together for children like courageous Jack and many others.

To combine doing something so positive with a day that is so enjoyable for everyone is quite special.

Don’t miss our 20-page Wigan 10k souvenir special in this week’s Wigan Observer and another special pull-out in Thursday’s Wigan Evening Post.