Monday, 29 February 2016

Why run for charity?

In 2011 I ran London Marathon, for the charity PhabKids. I ran the marathon for three reasons: to turn my life around from the directionless waste it occupied prior to June 2010, to lose weight (I was 14 stone) and to raise money for my chosen charity. I needed to raise £1500 and ended up raising over £2500.

The marathon changed my life. It kicked my arse: it was a warm day and I went out too fast, got cramp at 12 miles and run/limped the next 14. I finished in 5:46. It was painful, and very emotional. I had split up with my fiancee 3 months before and my step-dad had died very suddenly the previous autumn. I had so many thoughts going through my mind while I struggled on, and when I finished it was all to much. Some of the lifestyle changes I had made had been very challenging, and I had a few missteps along the way. Weight-wise, I managed to lose over a stone before the race, though I then gained and lost half a stone several times over the next couple of years. I'm now safely under 12 stone. Target of 10.5 not too far away now.
Raising the money was also hard. I mainly begged Facebook contacts, though also asked work colleagues and managed to get in a few local and a couple of national newspapers. The donations came almost exclusively from FB and work however.
I am so proud that I did it. I'm ferociously glad that I linked this undertaking with a charitable action. I never contemplated dropping out because I was carrying a wave of generosity with me. I literally owed the people who had believed in me. In part I succeeded because of them and they shared in my success. PhabKids got a significant amount of money because of this.
Afterwards I knew two things: one that I would in turn donate feely, to give back some of the karma I had received. Two that I wouldn't do anything for charity again till I had a sufficiently large goal to aim for.
Fast forward 2016. I have carried on running, stumbling through 6 more marathons (cramp in each one at varying points) and 2 ultra marathons (no cramp in the second, getting there!). My goal race for a few years has been the 86 mile Ridgeway Challenge. I deferred entry last year as my wife and I were blessed with a baby girl and were preparing to move house. It was a busy time. However, now I'm raring to go. The race is in 6 months.
This time I've not set a fund-raising goal, to reduce pressure on myself. A few people have asked me why I'm running for charity when I would do the race anyway. This is a frequent topic online too. For me it is simple: embrace the power of AND.
This is a big deal for me. It is longer in distance than the two longest races I have previously done stuck together. I will be running for between 20 and 26 hours. I don't know if I can do it. I love the Ridgeway. It is the source of many of my favourite training runs. I have run the whole distance in sections, but all together it is an incredibly long way. It is worthy of my next charitable venture. The charity is great. Sue Ryder provides end of life care. We're all going to die. Some of us may need nursing or a hospice to care for us when all hope has gone. If that was one of my loved ones I would want them to get good care. There are many worthy charities but Sue Ryder is good enough for me, for this race.
I am going to run my dream race in August, and at the same time I'm going to raise money for Sue Ryder. The two things are more than coincidental. By raising money I incentivise myself to finish. I make the event more special and hopefully make something profoundly positive out of what is otherwise a selfish pursuit. I would race anyway, I will again without raising money for charity. But every now and again I will link a special race with a good cause, and try to make a difference.

Thursday, 25 February 2016


Day 13530

Been musing a little on the nature of work.
Scientifically, work is done when a force moves something: $W=F \times x$. So gravity, moving an apple from the tree to the ground, does work increasing the apple's velocity. When the apple hits the ground it is moving faster, *bump*.
Alternatively, in a motor, electricity does work ($W=I \times V$) creating a changing magnetic field, which rotates a permanent magnet and turns a thing.
I'm considering all of this sat at my desk pretending to do work. In this case the work is a little more abstract: I am a physicist. I eat food. My digestive system does work breaking that food down into useful components such as fat and protein, which my brain can then use to think about stuff. I'm not a very good physicist, and am currently in the final stages of seeing how protracted I can make my phd. The phd is part-time, nominally 8 years and I'm half way through the 9th.
I'm quite proud of lots of the thesis so far, which I won't go into here. But undoubtedly, if I was a little more efficient at turning food into thought it could have been done by now, there could have been more of it, and my employers would be happier with me and maybe give me money with which to buy food.
I try to run a lot. I'm really not a very good runner. I generally finish near the back, though in recent years a bit less so. I can keep going for quite a long time and have been trying my hand at ultras. I'm particularly proud of this as I was born with club feet (one sideways, one backwards, both pretty straight now) so running is not perhaps something my maker saw in me at the beginning.
For running, the fat and protein from my food is used by my muscles to propel me forwards. I'm a lot better at it than I used to be, though am still a little too heavy, a little too clumsy. I get distracted by tech a lot. I like maps. I like reading about truly inspiring and impressive runners who can run up mountains all day.
I've been feeling a little miserable for the last month as I haven't done a lot of running due to a bad cold, a sore calf, then a really annoying 10 days of weird cold/ chest congestion that is still just about hanging on. It's particularly annoying as being a runner I don't seem to suffer from colds much and am often smug about this, so getting two in succession is pretty deflating. I suspect it is this that is making it hard to do work thinking, as running keeps all the other fundamental processes in my body like my vascular system, digestive system, philosophy system, moral system and lymphatic system functioning correctly.
Hopefully I am just about done with the cold, so that over the weekend I can start doing some work running, which will do work sorting all the other systems out, so that I can do some work at work and get on with working finishing my thesis. Who knows.