Sierra Leone Marathon 2014

On generosity, charity, races and Bristol


My JustGiving page has been set up since my last blog and the generosity and alacrity of people's sponsorship has been quite overwhelming. In just the first week, your donations raised £1,000, and the total figure is now up to £2,000. I cannot thank you all enough for your kindness.  It is of course especially gratefully received when the sterling work of Street Child means that this money has such an impact on people's lives. When the construction of a basic school costs £1,000, a month's provision of essential medical care for 250 children costs £500, and £40 sends a child to school for a whole year, your sponsorship really is going to a fantastic cause in a country where the need is very great indeed.


Your generosity has also been a great help to me when training.  I'm not sure if this is normal but I often get quite emotional on runs after about 10 miles - perhaps this is my Italian blood coming to the surface, but I like to think of it as a passionate Lawrence Dallaglio moment (...I'm going to get ridiculed for writing that!) Anyway, your sponsorship is very motivating and it means a lot to me, so thank you.




Above is a video clip which I emailed around touting for further sponsorship in exchange for my very deep embarrassment.  In the clip I don't think that I mention 'charity' once - but I promise that I did in the interview as a whole but those bits didn't make the cut!


Charity is obviously on my mind more than usual as I'm training for the marathon, but also because I am seeing the need for it more frequently as I run around London's parks and streets. I am ashamed to say that recently I passed a man sitting at a garden table in a park face down in his own vomit. As I approached he lifted his head slightly to moan, and so, knowing he was alive, thinking someone else might help, and not wanting to break my running stride, I carried on past him and didn't do a thing. Which just isn't good enough.


I think that a lot of Londoners are very unsure about what to do when a beggar asks them for money on the street. There's immediately the argument that they might be addicted to drugs or drink and so it would be better not to fund their habit and run the risk of doing more harm than good. Others might argue that it's up to them what they spend the money on and it's better not to penalise those who will genuinely spend the money on food and shelter.


A very good friend of mine who is an extremely good person buys a sandwich for homeless people who ask him for help and takes them for a coffee. My brother is part of a charity committee of friends from uni who raise a lot of money for charity by putting on fantastic parties, and they also volunteer at The Passage soup kitchen in Victoria which does very good work. 


Through Kiln's participation I have more direct experience of the Whitechapel shelter which is run by a tireless and endlessly jolly couple.  What really impresses me about them is their practical approach to the problems of the homeless - as well as offering breakfast, showers and fresh clothes, they offer assistance with finding accommodation, obtaining birth certificates, referrals to drug/alcohol programmes, providing an address for post, IT skills, legal issues, writing CVs and applying for jobs.


It is extremely sad to see a number of homeless people at the shelter from Eastern European countries who, by the way they divide their food and the few practical possessions on their person, have a real demeanour of resourcefulness, education and nobility. It must be truly awful to emigrate as a skilled worker with hopes of making more money to send back to your family, just at the wrong time economically, which leaves you stranded. Whitechapel has a volunteer programme to enable getting involved and helping these people, and to support a very practical charity.


Street Child's operations are similarly impressive for their practical nature. And the challenges they face are of course in one of the most deprived countries in the world rather than one of the most developed. It must be hard to know where to begin helping a child who has lost his/her family during the civil war, has been driven onto the street to survive, perhaps into prostitution, has no prospects or education, receives regular beatings and lives in fear, and has to resort to petty crime to get by.


Street Child's response of providing counselling and medical care, reuniting children with their families and getting them back into education is supplemented by its work on sustainability, which involves establishing commercial ventures such as bars and restaurants to provide employment, and by contracting local carpenters for the building of schools to boost the local economy. For me, this approach goes beyond just providing aid; it aims to create more enduring and empowering solutions.


Simon _Bianco _april 2012Races and Bristol

If anybody's still reading, I'll update you quickly on my running!  I've entered a couple of races which I was told would be good practice, and they've proved useful and good fun. The first race was 10km around Bushy Park, which is right next to my parents' house and a route I've run hundreds of times before. It was pretty exciting to race amongst 500 people on home turf, amazing to have my family supporting me, and very useful to learn to swallow my pride when a feather-light whippet / wraith glides past me effortlessly and not to try immediately to catch them / cover tackle them, but to run at my own pace. Extremely chuffed that I came 13th and ran it in 41 minutes.


The next race was the Hastings half marathon on a gloriously sunny day along the sea and through the very pretty Old Town. There were 5,000 runners, something I hadn't experienced before, and the support of the crowd was incredible with live bands, marching bag pipers and lots of families (again including my own) en route.  It was a tremendous event but no-one told me before signing up that the first 5 miles were uphill and seriously tough. Bloody knackered but pleased with my run: 321st in 1 hour 36 minutes.


My confidence from these 2 races has been dented somewhat since however: as my longer distance runs are now lasting more than 2 hours, I'm suffering from boredom, exhaustion, slower times (now not sure I'll be able to achieve my aim of sub-4 hours), and hunger. Indeed, the money I'm saving on boozing less I'm now spending on obscene amounts of food. And stash. I'm sure I don't need all my new kit but my iPhone app has been playing up unfortunately and so I've bought a new Garmin watch which tells me my speed and distance via satellites, as well as my heart rate.  It's absolutely amazing.


To stave off boredom, I've started going for runs further afield for a change of scene. Today I started in Cliftonwood Crescent in Bristol, ran around a lot of old university haunts (God, it's a fantastic place), very nostalgic, past the York Cafe which is now a snazzy-looking Italian restaurant, and then to Bath. 18 miles in total, along the old railway line with disused platforms occasionally either side, lots of very green bits, a great trip. I then ate a large quarter pounder meal, an extra milkshake, 9 nuggets, a sugar donut, and 1kg of Galaxy chocolate. 


My next blog will be from on holiday in Zambia - the start of my training on the continent!





Malcolm said...
Hugely enjoyed the video. You're a natural - very telegenic! Can just about see you now doing a live piece to camera for BBC World after crossing the finishing line with beads of sweat rolling down your nose onto the microphone! Impressive training regime as well - can't believe you ran from Bristol to Bath. Even more shocked that you opted for the chicken legend meal at MacDonalds and only 9 nuggets! Keep up the great work!
April 12, 2012 14:04

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