Currently the UK is gearing up for Sport Relief: a weekend in March where fundraising is focused on sports activities. There are events across the country for people to participate in – running, swimming, cycling – with all proceeds going to Comic Relief. Half is spent on disadvantaged youth in the UK, and half is spent on international aid for disadvantaged children overseas.
As a concept, I really like it: it encourages the public to get up and do something themselves rather than donate after seeing a moving tribute during a long telathon on a Friday night. It could encourage families to try and raise money together by running a mile, and they might discover a new hobby that they really enjoy. Plus, actually doing something to raise money always feels better than just answering the call of celebrities asking for donations through the TV screen after having visited an impoverished area.
Of course, to boost the profile of Sport Relief, the celebrities do get involved. Except for Sport Relief, instead of taking a troop of cameramen on a trip, they too actually do something. In 2012, David Walliams swam the Thames, and John Bishop did an ultra triathlon of sorts over the course of a week from Paris to London. This year, Davina McCall joined the men by doing another ultra triathlon from Edinburgh to London. Next month, Jo Whiley will spend 26 hours on a treadmill in a glass box outside the BBC, like a bad-ass, female David Blane.
I always follow these celebs on their events in awe. I can’t imagine what it must be like to run, swim and cycle across the UK in February. I like my fingers, and losing them to frostbite in Lake Windermere is not a risk I want to take.
These celebs are made very vulnerable as they dig to the very depths of themselves to carry on, and all under the continuous scrutiny of the Daily Mail and its media friends. They show what the human body is capable of, and it’s a call to all of us to get up and do more, not just for fitness but also for charity. One thing Davina said really struck me: for her, it was ‘for women and children living really hard lives, not just here but all over the world. It was a really important cause for me to help other women’.
But. And I feel like a huge grump for writing this. But a tiny, small, cycnical part of me wonders whether such huge physical challenges are the right way to go – only a small part, mind, but enough that I wanted to explore this more. Seeing Davina being pulled limply from Lake Windermere – is that a positive message to send out? Yes in the context of pushing yourself to the limits, no if someone at home is too intimidated to go and do something because it’s not ‘big’ enough.
I know you can’t please everyone, and the money raised and the help this brings is soooooo positive, but maybe this platform could be used to tell us all about how they trained, what they did, how they prepared themselves, as a means to encourage others too. David didn’t just jump into the Thames one day and have his people call the media, he would have put some serious preparation in the months leading up to it. As a way to really encourage the public to take part in Sport Relief – and a way to encourage fitness in general – maybe some more focus on this would be good too.
Having said that, I don’t in any way want to undermine what these people have done, or the money these activities have raised. These activities are amazing achievements – and for a wonderful cause – but I personally would love to hear a little more about their training. How did Davina prepare for a 500 mile challenge in Winter? What is Jo Whiley doing at the moment? What is she eating? What will she be eating? How do you prep for 26 miles on a treadmill? What happens when you’re walking in a glass box and you see someone watching you eating a McDonalds at 3am?! Talk about challenging yourself!
What do you think?