This time last year I signed up to run the London Marathon, now (as I write) a rather terrifying 3 days away.
Why did I do it? Because about 20 years ago someone we knew dropped dead on a rugby pitch at the age of 35. No warning. Just a previously undiagnosed heart condition. Ten years later, exactly the same happened to his 15 year old son while playing rugby at school. At the time, I selfishly gave thanks that it hadn’t happened to me and mine, and swore to do something to help.
Every week in the UK, 12 apparently healthy young people between the ages of 14 and 35 die from this condition, which has become known as Sudden Death Syndrome. In most cases, with screening, these deaths are avoidable and my charity, Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) has a fantastic screening and support programme, but never enough money.
Plus, of course, I really fancied the chance to take on a serious personal challenge. (My previous longest run was 20 miles short of the 26.2 required).
I’d been told all I needed was a pair of shorts and some trainers. Plus a personal investment of numerous hours over the winter building up my fitness before striding off on the great day to achieve a momentous ambition.
Serious training started in November, and my first proper test was a 10 kilometre run around Richmond back in sunny but crisp November. Alas, the start was delayed because of the number of people registering, all having paid their fees to the race organisers. Crisp turned to cold, and my own personal result was 52 minutes and a pulled Achilles tendon. Cue physio.
The whole thing is big business, you see. The Virgin London Marathon, the ultimate money-raiser, will see 47,000 people racing / running / trudging (*delete as appropriate) around the Docklands and East London before delivering themselves and their multi-millions of pounds of charitable contributions in front of Buckingham Palace some time (for the vast majority of us) early to mid-afternoon.
In the meantime, having run hundreds of miles in training – but a lot less than most – I have worn out three pairs of shorts, two pairs of (horribly expensive) trainers and one set of outrageously-costly-but-worth-every-penny specially-moulded inner soles. I have maxed out my health insurance on physios in order to keep this ageing body mobile, and spent daft sums trying to find energy gels that really will keep me going all that way without making me gag.
Yesterday, I schlepped all the way over to the Excel centre to pick up my race number. It’s compulsory for all runners (except, I dare say, for Paula Radcliffe and co), and I really shouldn’t have been surprised at the size of the accompanying exhibition, full of stalls selling their wares. Of course, they’ve all paid their money too.
I’m in marketing. I should know better…..
Mind you, it’s been worth every hard-earned penny and every strenuous mile, and I have genuinely discovered parts of me that other challenges have failed to reach. So, do I care that so many people are making money from it all? Right now, not a bit. (And certainly not the charities, each and every one of which deserves all the help they can get.)
Ask me on Sunday when I hit THE WALL, though, and you may get a different answer!
P.S. If you haven’t already sponsored me for Cardiac Risk in the Young, you can do so here at virginmoneygiving.com/timparrack
Link for CRY: