Why I will never take a charity marathon spot

I ran my first marathon for charity. My Mum, Dad and brother ran it with me. We bought our own entries and raised money for Macmillan, who helped my Gran at the end of her life, and who we wanted to thank in a small way.

Brighton Marathon 2014 Finish Line

My most emotional finish line.

That was what got me running, for the first time ever. And it was an extremely rewarding experience, both to complete a marathon and to support a charity that meant so much to us. So I completely understand why people would choose to run for charity – it’s an admirable thing to do, and can really offer a lot of motivation when the training gets tough, and you start to doubt yourself. Especially when it comes to the full 26.2!

I really, really wanted to run London this year. In fact, I’ve entered the ballot 4 years in a row, and received 4 rejections. This year, I was approached by a charity who had a place to offer, and who suggested a collaboration whereby I would blog about my experiences and promote the charity, in exchange for a place (as well as raise money). That seemed reasonable enough.

But then came the catch: they wanted me to commit to raising a minimum of £2,000. And looking around, it seems to be pretty normal for charities to jump on the marathon bandwagon and ask for extortionate amounts of money for a marathon spot. So I politely declined, and entered Barcelona, instead.

I think charities are great. I think marathons are great. And I think that if you want to run a marathon for charity, that’s awesome, and you should absolutely go for it. But what ISN’T great, is for charities to ask for a ridiculous amount as a commitment. For most of us, money is hard to raise, and when marathon season rolls around, people are inundated with justgiving links, collection pots, and emails promoting various (worthy) causes.

Inevitably, many will get lost in the noise; people that might have donated under different circumstances will roll their eyes at yet another runner asking for money for their marathon, and the significance of the charity, its cause, and the runner’s reason for supporting it is lost.

In my opinion, this completely defeats the purpose.

When it comes to marathons like London, for many the only way to get in is to use a charity place. And as far as I can tell, there are more ballot places going to charities every year (watching the London marathon in 2015, it seemed that every other runner was wearing a charity vest of some description).

But I feel like charities are taking advantage of this. I swear we didn’t have to raise quite so much a few years back? Did the extended London ballot make a difference this year, does anyone know?

For lots of people, raising money for charity is a very personal, emotional thing. And to then be asked for such a steep minimum commitment  – which most of us could never reach – for the right to a charity place? That to me is almost hurtful.

If a cause is close to your heart, and you’re willing to put in 4 months of training and run 26.2 miles to contribute to that cause, I think that option should be accessible to you. Asking someone to raise thousands of pounds for the ‘privilege’ is, in my opinion, greedy and ridiculous.

I believe (and I’m sure there are those who will agree and disagree) that charities should be giving their valuable spots to those who care for their causes the most; for those who, with the best will in the world, may not be able to reach such extravagant fundraising targets.

Some might think ‘oh, well. If they care about the charity enough, they’ll do what they need to do to raise the money.’ But life doesn’t work like that. And sure, they could pick another event, and get a place through their own means; but it’s the principle of the matter.

Surely, the practice of charities ransoming places once all of the ballot spots are gone – and divvying them out to the highest bidders – is not what charity is about.

Am I wrong?

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[Edit] I appreciate that this is just one side of the story, and some events charge charities an extremely high fee for places. Do you work for a charity? Have you faced this problem? I’d love to hear thoughts from both sides!

Interesting article on the cost to charities: Falling at the first hurdle: marathon fundraising passes small charities by

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Barcelona Marathon Training: 7 weeks to go!

I’m not doing a weekly summary this time, because after last weekend’s dog drama I decided to give myself a week off to rest my leg. That means that my training basically consisted of the long run: 16 miles.

As you can probably tell from the photos below, the run started out with me worrying how long my tendon would cooperate for (and wondering whether I’d need to walk home at some point!), and ended with ALL THE HAPPY when I stopped my Garmin at 16.02 miles:

Barcelona Marathon Long Training Run

What a difference 16 miles can make…

Whilst I took a few breaks to reshuffle kit, have a drink, take a gel, stretch or just generally have a bit of a wobble (long distance running, all the LOLs), my moving time gave me a 10:24/mile average, and a 14 minute PB over last year’s 16 miler at the Kingston Breakfast Run! (Though obviously my breaks were counted there, so I probably slightly cheated today).

I had a bit of a moment when I accidentally hit the ‘lap’ button (which I’d never even noticed before!) and then tried to fix the lap setting but ended up pausing the Garmin instead, losing nearly 1/4 of a mile. And being the stats fiend that I am, I obviously decided that the lost 1/4 mile didn’t count, and I had to make it up. So I technically ran about 16.25. (Grumble, grumble).

I had a moment of doubt after one of the bigger hills on the route, and turned to Twitter for some much-needed encouragement/a big kick up the backside:

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The #ukrunchat community certainly delivered, and gave me just the boost I needed. It was tough, it hurt, but my tendon behaved and I’m over the moon with my time!

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Just goes to show, sometimes your body is capable of far more than you think! 😀

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How was your week? Did you run this weekend?

Barcelona Marathon Training: Week 8/16

Week 8 started off brilliantly. After last Sunday’s 14 miler I was straight into a Body Pump class on Tuesday evening (140 lunges and squats, amongst other things – that class is no joke!) and I even managed a treadmill run on Thursday. I was well and truly on a roll!

But my main session was, obviously, the Sunday long run. I decided to head to Virginia Water lake this time, for a change of scenery – and was surprised to see that it was white and snowing outside as I got my kit together. Given that we had a bit of a drive to get there, we decided to stay home a little longer to let things thaw out a bit. But whilst the roads might have been fine, it was still super icy and cold (and snow had settled in patches where the sun hadn’t got to it yet).

Virginia Water Lake Long Run

Slightly wishing I’d manned up and got out the day before!

The lake was ridiculously busy, with tons of families and dog walkers milling about. It was an absolute assault course out there, and I had to keep slowing down (or stopping) to let people get by. The kids on scooters and bikes were lethal, too!

But the views were lovely, and I did enjoy running by the water, despite the crowds!

Winter at Virginia Water Lake

Unfortunately, my luck ran out at about 5 miles, when a labrador coming the other way ran straight into me as I lifted my foot up, causing me to stumble onto the other leg (the one with the semi-healed tendon, boo). I landed pretty heavily and had to hop a couple of times to get my balance, and my leg was NOT happy. I shouted as the dog hit me, but the owner simply glanced back disinterestedly and then carried on walking without a word! Bloody cheek.

On the bright side, the dog seemed fine…

I toughed it out for another .1 of a mile, but my tendon was throbbing so I walked the mile back to the start to meet James and grab a hot drink.

Walking Around Virginia Water Lake

How could that face not make me smile?

When I caught up to James, we grabbed a couple of hot chocolates and then decided to do one more loop of the lake, which brought my total mileage to 10 (5 run, 5 walked). As we set off I linked arms with him, and when he asked me why I didn’t hold his hand, my response was pretty blunt:

Well, I’ve been wiping my nose with that glove for 5 miles, but I’ll hold your hand if you want!?

Us runners are a sexy lot, aren’t we!?

Unsurprisingly, he declined 😉

Hot Chocolate at Virginia Water Lake

All the hot chocolate! And layers. Many, many layers.

And an obligatory photo (James made me) of the ice in my hair:

Icy Hair at Virginia Water Lake

Turns out, this is what happens when you run in the cold!

So all in all, my week was a bit disappointing:

Tuesday: Body Pump class (1h15).

Thursday: 6m treadmill run @ 9:48 average.

Sunday: 5m @ 10:24 average, plus a 5m walk.

Luckily, I’ve still got time to build up my distance, and will give the 16 miler another shot this weekend. I’ll be taking a quieter route this time though!

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Have you ever had any training setbacks/injuries? How did you manage them?

Barcelona Marathon Training: Week 7/16

I’m baaack!

These weekly training posts have disappeared for a little while now, thanks to a tendon injury I’ve been trying to recover from. This was my first full week of training after a 2-week break (which still included a bit of running, but at a gentle pace and nothing over 5k). Quite frankly, I haven’t really been doing enough for a weekly summary!

Today, I cut the scheduled 17 miler to 14 miles and re-jigged the plan a bit (thank goodness for cut-back weeks giving me some wiggle room…) and I’m officially back on track! Come at me, Barcelona!

Barcelona Training Run With Head Torch

I got a running backpack for Christmas, and a head torch a few weeks back, and today was the first time I ran with them. (Yep, I’ve been skipping my run commutes – ooops!)

I felt slightly dubious before I set off. Having used a belt and water bottle for my last 2 marathons, I felt like a bit of a wannabe with my new kit! But it made my run SO much easier. I’m never doing a long run without the pack ever again, ever ever ever! 😀

Barcelona Training Run With Head Torch 2

The head torch was seriously fun, too. Now that I can see where I’m going, the possibilities for run routes are ENDLESS, and thanks to the backpack they’ll be made even better with ALL THE SNACKS! (Oh, and I can now run home without faffing with my belt/tripping over tree routes. An added bonus).

Sooo, without further rambling, my week looked like this:

Tuesday: 5k @ 9:29/mile. I took it easy as I didn’t want to shoot off and have to walk home (the physio had told me to go easy on both speed and distance until my leg was better). It was tough after a break, but given that my 5k PB was 9:40/mile back in August, hitting 9:29 on an ‘easy’ run felt brilliant. And no pain, either!

Thursday: 4m @ 9:40/mile. This was meant to be 7 miles, but I ran out of time and cut it short. I also accidentally recorded the first half a mile as a cycle, rather than a run, but as a result I discovered the funky ‘multi sport’ option on my Garmin – so there’s that!

Sunday: 14m @ 10:16/mile. I also clocked a half marathon ‘moving’ time of 2:15:07, which is a PB of 7 minutes and 3 seconds! Woop woop! And miles 13 and 14 were my fastest, at 9:57 and 9:39. This isn’t counting the breaks I took to stretch, adjust the pack, put the head torch on, cross roads etc. but it’s pretty awesome regardless!

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Do you have a spring race you’re training for? How’s it all going?

A little wander along the North Devon coast

Last week, I headed back to North Devon to visit my parents for Christmas. And having moved away from the coast a few years back, I obviously insisted on heading out for a beach-based walk 😉

There’s something so lovely about being on the coast outside of the busy summer season, and I definitely took it for granted when I lived there!

Devon Walk 1

We headed out a few days after Christmas to work off some of the holiday indulgence, and the weather was perfect. Cold, sunny, and a bit breezy (becoming VERY breezy by the end as the storm rolled in, but it’s all good fun!)

My parents live just a few miles inland, so the coast path really is right on their doorstep. And the views NEVER get old.

Devon Walk 2

We started at Croyde beach, and walked around the headland to Putsburough and Woolacombe (where I used to surf, back in the day!) and then back along the country lanes to Croyde. It was only 3 miles or so, but it was just what we needed!

Devon Walk 3

It’s easy to overlook walking when focusing on running all the time, but it’s so good for cross training and really works the little stability muscles that I tend to miss out at the gym.

One of my resolutions for 2016 will definitely be to get out on the local trails more – especially living in the middle of the Surrey Hills! (Route recommendations welcome!)

Plus, a decent walk is a great excuse for a pub lunch 😉

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Do you like walking/hiking? What are your favourite places/routes?