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?

– – –

[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

Advertisements

How running helped to save my Dad’s life

Some of you might have noticed that I’ve been a bit AWOL for the past few weeks.

On Sunday 10th May, my Dad collapsed at the Bideford 10k after suffering a major heart attack, resulting in cardiac arrest.

He survived.

The heart attack came as a complete shock to all of us. Anyone who knows my Dad can tell you that he’s healthy; he eats well; he storms through hilly coastal walks and can handle even the toughest hikes across Exmoor without batting an eyelid; he’s a great runner (his marathon and half marathon PBs are better than mine!) and he cycles to and from the station for work every day. He doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink much, doesn’t eat takeaways or sit in front of the TV for hours, or any of those other unhealthy clichés.

Unfortunately, it turns out that he suffered from undiagnosed heart disease, and probably had done for decades. The symptoms are easy to brush off – feeling tired and achey, a bit of indigestion and some chest pain, breathlessness. It’s easy to tell yourself that you’ve just had a few hard weeks at work, are staying up too late, or training too hard. Some even blame age – though at 56, my Dad’s certainly not old.

When my Dad collapsed, the first person on the scene was another runner, who began CPR. It was a second runner who took over the CPR, which gave the paramedics time to get to my Dad with a defibrillator to restart his heart. Bideford 10k is a small, club-run, low-key event, but the fantastic organisation on the day and the actions of the runners, marshals, and event organisers meant that my Dad was able to be transferred to the Devon Air Ambulance helicopter and stabilized enough to be taken to hospital.

The doctors told us that the reason he remained stable and handled the surgery so well is because he’s been fit and healthy for a number of years now – and that’s largely thanks to his decision to start running! The running caused him to rethink his diet, and the training helped to strengthen his heart, despite the damage having been done decades before.

The fact that the attack happened at Bideford 10k meant he was able to get the medical attention he needed at the time. Amazingly, the runner who began the CPR just happened to be a GP – and the second runner just happened to have completed an advanced first aid course the week before! Talk about amazing coincidences.

I’ll be forever grateful to that race, and to those runners, as they kept him alive long enough for the ambulance to get to him.

The air ambulance took him straight from Bideford to Exeter hospital. From there, he was then transferred to London where he underwent a triple bypass operation, and thanks to all this he is now at home and recovering well.

Without the air ambulance, he might not have made it this far. It was their incredibly fast response (they were already waiting for him by the time the ambulance got him back into town) that meant he was able to be stabilised quickly enough and transferred to hospital before any lasting damage was done.

I was amazed to learn that the Devon Air Ambulance Trust (DAAT) only have 2 helicopters for the huge area they cover – and scarily, the first was already out on call when my Dad collapsed.

DAAT is a recognised charity, and needs to raise a huge £4.5 million every year just to keep their service going. They also need to raise an additional £1 million to meet their maintenance and repair costs, and to extend their operating hours. Without our help, they can’t do their job – and that job is essential. You can find out more about their service here.

Whilst we’ve tracked down the runners and marshals and race organisers to express our thanks for what they did, it’s hard to know how to really thank someone for saving the life of a loved one. I mean, what on earth can you possibly offer to repay something that big?

Whilst I’m still trying to answer that, what I can do in the meantime is support the DAAT charity so that they can keep their amazing service going. But I can’t do that alone!

I’m going to be cycling the Prudential Ride 100 (yep, that’s 100 MILES) in August to raise money for the Devon Air Ambulance, and I would be so grateful if you could spare even a few pennies. Donations can be made either online or by text:

Online, via my JustGiving page: JustGiving – Cycling 100 miles for the DAAT
By texting PTLA58 and your donation amount (£1, £2, £3, £4, £5, or £10) to 70070

I just want to end this by saying a huge thank you from the bottom of my heart to the DAAT, the Bideford 10k runners, marshals and organisers, the staff at Exeter and Hammersmith hospitals and all of the other wonderful people that have helped and supported us over the last few weeks. We couldn’t have got through this without you.

I love you, Dad.

– – –

There are some brilliant resources on the British Heart Foundation website on risk factors and how to keep your heart healthy: www.bhf.org.uk.

Know the warning signs: How healthy is your heart?

It’s been a crazy week!

So, a few things have happened since I last posted.

A hurricane hit England – starting in the South West, where I happened to be staying (on the Cornish coast). The best bit? Mum and I hid ourselves away in the cosy little pub we were staying in (fantastic little place, with brilliant food, and the staff were SO LOVELY!) whilst the wind picked up and the rain hammered down. Our room was right under the thatch roof, with little fairy lights around the windows. We watched Downton Abbey, drank tea and ate chilli crisps and twice our weight in chocolate! Perfect 🙂

I drove all the way to, around, and back from Cornwall with no problems (over 100 miles each way) – and failed my driving test the next day. Nerves got the better of me, and my examiner was apparently having a bit of a bad day, and marked me a little harshly (i.e. if he’d marked the fault as minor, rather than major, I would have passed). It’s done, I’ve rebooked, and as my brother so awesomely put it, I’ll smash it next time. Positive thoughts! At least I nailed the theory test 🙂

My journey back from the South West on Monday evening was absolutely naffed up as a result of the crazy weather. My first train (at 5pm – hooours after the trains started running again) was fine; my second train was an hour and a half late, and then delayed on the platform, and finally delayed outside of Reading when we got stuck behind a slow train. I then missed my third and final train by 1 minute and 58 seconds (well, 1 hour, 1 minute and 58 seconds, technically – this was the second train that I had planned to catch after missing my original one by miles). They then changed the platform 5 times, alternating between 2 on opposite ends of the station. By this point it was nearly 11pm, and absolutely freezing. Though going back and forth and up and down stairs warmed me up a little, and passed the time! I got onto the last train back to Guildford, only for it to be stuck on the platform for ten minutes. I eventually got home at 00:25; 2 hours and 10 minutes later than planned. I imagine this had something to do with the less than stellar performance during my driving test, which I booked (with an hour of practise beforehand) for 10:14 the next morning. 6 hours of sleep does not a fantastic driver make!

I had my first pitch black cycle home last night. Luckily, I was following my friend, as my front light is far too weak, and I could barely see a thing – very disconcerting on a 60mph A road! Luckily I’ve found a stronger one (I hope), which I ordered today. But wow, cycling on main roads in the dark is WEIRD. Everything looks so different! I think I might start running home instead ..

Talking of running, I did something a bit nuts this afternoon. I don’t know what came over me .. All I can say is that it seemed like a good idea at the time!

I’ve been thinking about Brighton, and my fundraising goal for Macmillan. I mean, so many people run marathons nowadays. A marathon might be a massive challenge and an amazing achievement (I don’t think anyone can argue with that), but I felt like I should be doing something MORE.

So I kind of entered this:

Richmond
It takes place 6 weeks after Brighton, which (in theory) gives me time to recover, and build up again. Given that Brighton is going to be my first marathon, I completely accept that there’s no guarantee that I’ll manage this – or even complete Brighton. But I like a challenge.

So (I hope) .. I’ll be running both Brighton and Richmond Marathons for Macmillan next year. 2 marathons, 6 weeks. That’s my challenge, and raising money and awareness for Macmillan is my goal!

Here’s to the journey 🙂

Race for Life

I hope everyone enjoyed the beautifully sunny long weekend! I ended up a little pink, but it was definitely worth it 🙂

As I mentioned previously, on Sunday a couple friends and I ran Race for Life, in support of Cancer Research UK. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, as I hadn’t done one of these events before, but it was fantastic!

There were hundreds of people there. There was music, dancing, and the sun was out in full force. (I’ll admit, I was very tempted to just lie on the grass and let the others run without me).

It was also extremely well organised. Race packs were sent out well in advance, with detailled instructions; start areas for runners, joggers and walkers were clearly indicated; there were TONS of portaloos (and no queues), and the organised warmup was great fun. I can’t believe how enthusiastic the volunteers were, either! All lovely, smiley and chatty. One of them even stood in the middle of the road at around the 3k mark to high-five every. single. person. as they passed him – this put SUCH a smile on my face!

Whilst the high temperature made running a little tough (I did most of my marathon training in sub-6 degrees over the winter ..) I really enjoyed it. To be fair, I did walk up a particularly big hill, and along a tarmac road that was reflecting some serious heat .. But I still finished with a ‘gun’ time of 32:40. No clue what my actual time was, but of course being an untimed event, it didn’t matter.

The supporters were fab – almost the entire way around the course they were cheering, clapping and encouraging us all. It was wonderful to see so many people taking part, and there was a real feeling of solidarity between runners, joggers and walkers alike. I really hadn’t appreciated before now just what a difference the crowd support can make when  you’re starting to flag. Thank you so much, you wonderful people!

It was really touching reading the signs on people’s tops, as many were running for family members and friends that they had lost (a few quite recently). My heart goes out to everyone who has been affected by this awful illness – I’m sure whoever you were running for would have been proud of you.

I’d like to say a big THANK YOU to the organisers, supporters and volunteers (you were all amazing!) and WELL DONE to everyone who took part. We all rocked it, and I can’t wait to see how much was raised!

Race for Life 2013

I hope everyone enjoyed the beautifully sunny long weekend! I ended up a little pink, but it was definitely worth it 🙂

As I mentioned previously, on Sunday a couple friends and I ran Race for Life, in support of Cancer Research UK. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, as I hadn’t done one of these events before, but it was fantastic!

There were hundreds of people there. There was music, dancing, and the sun was out in full force. (I’ll admit, I was very tempted to just lie on the grass and let the others run without me).

It was also extremely well organised. Race packs were sent out well in advance, with detailled instructions; start areas for runners, joggers and walkers were clearly indicated; there were TONS of portaloos (and no queues), and the organised warmup was great fun. I can’t believe how enthusiastic the volunteers were, either! All lovely, smiley and chatty. One of them even stood in the middle of the road at around the 3k mark to high-five every. single. person. as they passed him – this put SUCH a smile on my face!

Whilst the high temperature made running a little tough (I did most of my marathon training in sub-6 degrees over the winter ..) I really enjoyed it. To be fair, I did walk up a particularly big hill, and along a tarmac road that was reflecting some serious heat .. But I still finished with a ‘gun’ time of 32:40. No clue what my actual time was, but of course being an untimed event, it didn’t matter.

The supporters were fab – almost the entire way around the course they were cheering, clapping and encouraging us all. It was wonderful to see so many people taking part, and there was a real feeling of solidarity between runners, joggers and walkers alike. I really hadn’t appreciated before now just what a difference the crowd support can make when  you’re starting to flag. Thank you so much, you wonderful people!

It was really touching reading the signs on people’s tops, as many were running for family members and friends that they had lost (a few quite recently). My heart goes out to everyone who has been affected by this awful illness – I’m sure whoever you were running for would have been proud of you.

I’d like to say a big THANK YOU to the organisers, supporters and volunteers (you were all amazing!) and WELL DONE to everyone who took part. We all rocked it, and I can’t wait to see how much was raised!