Last Race of the Year and SA-Yes!

Saturday is my last race of the year! Unless I sign up for more.  First of all, I can’t believe it’s November 12 already. Second of all, this has made me all nostalgic for the year just gone. Let’s all ignore the fact that it’s still technically ‘only’ November: there are Christmas decorations in the shops, so it’s definitely not too early for a yearly-round up.


So today, ladies and gents, I will look back at the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of running in 2014!


The Good:

  • I started the year with my favourite race of the year: the Stubbington 10k, with two of my oldest friends. Sunny race by the Solent, followed by a pub lunch. Running at its best.


  • THE MARATHON! My first and absolutely not my last, even though I still hear that voice at mile 18 saying Please don’t ever make me do this again. Please. This was a definite life achievement, and I’m still stoked with the time of 3:43.
  • Running in Stockholm was an unexpected delight, and gave me some of the prettiest running memories

photo (30)


The Bad:

  • 20 miles in the pouring rain. They were the longest three hours ever. Longer than being stuck on a plane for 24 hours, longer than waiting for my meal to arrive after I’ve ordered (I’m a very impatient restaurant diner), and longer than Christmas Eve. Thank god for Beyonce telling me who runs the world (GIRLS!), and for Hamish & Andy keeping me company  on the way around, or I might have cried.
Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 14.22.32

This is Beyonce’s outfit of choice when she’s running. Away from Cops. Don’t worry – this is for a music video only. Source

  • Not being able to do either a half marathon or an obstacle course this year :( The half is my favourite distance, and I like to do the obstacle courses so I can show off how hard I am. That is, until someone mentions snakes, and then I turn into a trembling wreck. So take note: obstacle courses with mud, walls and electric shocks are ok, conversations about snakes are definitely not ok. 


The Ugly:

  • There’s only one proper contender here: my marathon-blisters. These bad boys developed about half way through my training, and got bigger and bigger til the week before the race I was running an average of 1:30min slower than I wanted. Luckily on the day, I pulled it out of the bag, but these war wounds hung around for about 8 weeks afterwards. I felt bad for everyone who attended my pole classes at this time, and had to see them.
photo 1-1

I’m sorry, everyone. But if I had to look at them, I think you should too. At least I’ve made the photo smaller for you all.

  • The end of the marathon: my face was covered in a grit-like substance, which I soon realised was dried sweat mingling with my foundation. I looked like something from the Zombie apocalypse. Smarter people would choose to run without make up on, I guess….


This year I’ve covered loads of different distances and events. If I’m honest, I’m not in the shape that I wanted to be for the end of the year thanks to a really busy August-November. However, looking back on all this reminds me that for me, running is 50% fitness and 50% because I love it: the places I get to see, the experiences, and the memories I now have. So there you go. A bit of personal growth thrown in here today too.

Saturday’s race is a 10 mile road race from Brampton to Carlisle. In keeping with my new approach to charity running, I chose to support a charity which works to protect children who are vulnerable to being trafficked at my last race. For this race, I wanted to choose a charity that supports young adults. SA-Yes works with young adults in South Africa who have been in children’s homes, providing them with a support network once they leave the social system and have to look after themselves at the age of 18.


I was an emotional ball of mess at 18: I was both terrified of the world and scornful of it, and I was really naive too. I relied on certain mentor-figures who helped me work out my values and priorities. So now I would like to support young adults who need the same guidance, but who are in much more vulnerable situations. I needed help on what to study at university, but these teenagers need stability, and help to finish school, and in finding housing and jobs so they don’t end up in trouble.


Anyway, that’s my chosen charity for this event, and I have made a donation. If you are interested, you can also make a donation here.


I hope you’re all having a wonderful Wednesday!


Ellie B




Charity Running & Fundraising: My New Approach


And here we have Charity Post Number Two!! Last week I found out that the majority of our fund-raising cashola goes back into projects, which was great to hear, and made for a very positive and happy post. :) This post will look at a more contentious side to charity fund-raising via running. :(


Often, when a runner signs up to run for a charity, there is a minimum amount they agree to raise for their spot in the race. The amount depends on the race – I had to raise £300 when I ran for Breast Cancer Care in the Great North Run in 2012, but I’ve had friends who have run the London Marathon, and had targets of approximately £2000.


When I was speaking with my running group, one member pointed me to this article, which claimed that charities are holding runners personally liable if they can’t raise the agreed targets. One organisation also revealed that one spot in the London marathon can cost them £400. A quick look at some of the charity listings on the VLM website showed the following fundraising targets:

  • MIND: £1750
  • Oxfam: £2000
  • Asthma UK: £1800
  • MacMillan: £2000


And here is the unfortunate darker side of the subject. I personally am torn between the idea that an individual should be held personally liable for that much money when they are essentially doing something voluntarily to raise money. However, on the other side of the coin, charities rely on these events to meaningfully contribute to their overall fundraising, and so they need individuals to take their targets seriously, and encourage minimum dropouts.



I remember one of my friends ran the London marathon a couple of years ago. Not only did he run the 26.2 miles in an inflatable Pamela Anderson outfit (which SB then wore o his stag do – ripe!!), but he also had to hold a series of pub quizzes to make sure that he hit the fundraising target: running the marathon wasn’t enough on its own to hit his sponsorship targets, which doesn’t seem quite right. When people need to resort to additional fundraising activities, I can’t help feeling that the targets are perhaps higher than they need to be.


I have done two charity runs: the Great North Run in 2012, and I did the Newcastle Stampede for the British Heart Foundation in 2013 (the target was £25 for that, which I paid myself for the pleasure of doing the event!). As I said, my GNR target was £300. Reasonably, I thought if I can get 30 people to donate £10, I’ll be ok.




But this was much harder than I thought. I advertised on Facebook, I sent emails to colleagues, family and friends, but there’s a fine line between begging, being over-demanding, and simply asking for donations. I had messages from people telling me why they couldn’t sponsor me: they had already sponsored their friends, or they were having a hard month. So then I felt bad for making my friends feel bad that they couldn’t sponsor me!




So. This all leads to the difficult decision: when you see all these Just Giving pages on Facebook, just who do you sponsor? Everyone has a great cause to support, and a great reason for their choice. And now we know that some targets are ambitiously high. Should you look at the event the individual has chosen, and how challenging it would be? Should you look at who is doing the event, and how challenging it will be for them personally? Should you look at the charity, and base your decision on that?


I don’t have the answer to these questions. Except I do recognise that there’s a difference between someone who has never run before wanting sponsorship for the Race for Life, and someone like myself, who runs 10+ miles regularly for fun, asking money for a half marathon. On some level I do think there should be a personal challenge involved if you are asking for money. One of my running friends summed it up well: they are more likely to sponsor someone if the event is ‘a real and perhaps transformative change’ (as discussed in last week’s post) as opposed to ‘just a way of gaining entry to an event’.


There are many events on my running bucket list,  but I’ve resisted doing too much for charity for the simple reason that I love running. I love it the way that Homer Simpson loves donuts, or Kim Kardashian loves selfies. And it doesn’t seem right to ask for sponsorship for something that I want to do for fun – even if the money is going to a good cause. I’d want to set a time goal, or run further than I’ve ever run before.


There’s also something intimate about running for a charity, and if the connection to the charity isn’t mine, then it feels a little voyeuristic. It has to be the right circumstance: I have friends who are going through some personal challenges, but if I chose to run for a related charity, I’d feel like I was shining a light on an area of their life that is very personal.


I think it’s time for a big, fat HOWEVER, because this post become more negative than intended! Remember my friend George Nicholson, torch bearer, park-runner extraordinary and all round top bloke?


He weighed into my runner’s group debate to say that the Great North Run charge charities the same as a typical runner for their places. He is also a very loyal supporter of Acorns Children’s Hospice for deeply personal reasons, and is grateful for all the support our fellow runners have shown when they run for Acorns. The hospice is not in the same league as Oxfam and The Children’s Society in terms of profile, but they raised £42k from the Great Birmingham Run and £26k from the London Marathon last year, and Josh’s story is a powerful reminder of how we can all make a small but positive difference to people’s lives. So keep this in mind too when you’re considering fundraising: don’t lose sight of all the positive you can do!


This is a big topic, and I thought about this subject for about six weeks before writing these posts. I feel I should do more for charity since I do run so much, but I’m not 100% convinced that signing up for huge financial targets and asking my friends and family all the time to sponsor me is the way forward. Plus, I’d want to consider which organisation to support to make sure it was right to ask for money. So, behold my own personal answer to this conundrum!!


When I ran my first marathon in May, I ran for myself and not for a charity. However, I dedicated the run to my former sports teacher, who had died of a brain tumour the year before, and donated to a relevant charity. When I was running the race, I thought about the charity, and the teacher who has influenced who I am now.

Serious final-100m consideration going on there.

Serious final-100m consideration going on there.

So this will be my approach going forward: I will consider the event that I’m running, and a charity to dedicate it to, and make my own, personal donation – the amount of which will be determined by the nature of the event, my personal goals and interest, and my personal finances!  I’ll let y’all know here who I’m dedicating the run to, so you too can donate should you wish.


It won’t raise as much money as it would through a standard charity place. But it means that I can support different organisations in a way that’s comfortable for me. And should I ever want to run in a formal charity place, I won’t have used up all the goodwill of everyone I know! I imagine that there may come a time when something happens in my life where I very keenly want to raise money and awareness through my running, and I don’t want to squander that.


I hope it doesn’t sound like the coward’s way out. It’s not intended to – it’s my own sustainable way to bring something constructive out of a hobby of mine. And in the spirit of my new system, I am going to dedicate Saturday’s  5k Neon Run to Oxfam’s Ebola Crisis Appeal, because they were kind enough to help me with information for these posts, and because I admire the way they drop everything to support the most immediate of crises. They are currently working in Sierra Leone and Liberia to prevent the spread of the disease.


What do you think on the whole subject? I am very interested.


Ellie B

Charity Running: Why do it and where does our ££ go?

Running for charity: a good cause gets some much-needed funding, and you get to increase your fitness, fulfill your potential, lower that cholesterol and generally revel in being a Supremely Good Citizen of Society. Win-win, right?


Given how high the stakes are for charity running (you can’t get much higher than Supremely Good Citizen and low cholesterol), it clearly deserves a post or two. This is the first of two posts about the subject – and maybe more if there’s more to explore.


Charity running is big business: in 2009, the London Marathon set the record for the largest annual fundraising event with a total of £47.2 million  ($87.2m) raised. £47 million from one event!  To put that into perspective, the UK’s Children in Need event in November 2013, with it’s huge telethon, raised £31m ($57.3m) on the night, which is £5m more than the year before.



London marathon

London marathon in London fog!


 Over in the homeland, the City2Surf, Australia’s largest race, raised $4,561,200 (£2.5m) in 2014. This beat last year’s amount by $500k (£272k). There’s no doubt about it: the contribution made by running is incredible.



The ‘City’ part of City2Surf

Thanks to social media and Just Giving etc, it’s so much easier for people to support their friends too. Gone are the days when we’d have to write down what each person promised to donate, and then chase them like an awkward, jilted lover for said donation. No, these days, people can donate from the comfort of their own homes, or even on their mobile phones when they’re out and about. The future is here, people.


As well as serving a Higher Purpose, running for charity often triggers a lifestyle change too. I asked my running group how fundraising had impacted their running. Of the women who answered, the majority said that they wanted to do the Race for Life (women only 5k event for cancer research) due to a personal connection, and that was the first time they had done any regular running. Post-race, they were bitten by the running bug and carried on.


Race for Life, Durham

Race for Life, Durham


A lot of the guys concurred: fundraising for charity had kick-started their running careers, whether as a result of a bet, or because they too had a personal connection they wanted to support.  One of our runners transformed from couch potato (his words!) to Park Run Event Director! Not a bad kick start. Another guy also said this: ‘I ran because I was getting fat from eating too much chocolate. Discovered that if you run enough you can eat almost whatever you want. Sold.’ Amen.


So far, we have learned that fundraising via running is very good for the charity, and very good for the individual. Not many surprises there I guess. However, is this combo of fitness, charity and altruism really as peachy as all this?


Sometimes – and this might seem controversial – it can feel like the activity itself is emphasized at the expense of the charity. Whilst not running, or even sporty, the Ice Bucket Challenge is a good example of this: it received criticism for being narcissistic, with too few people actually going on to donate. People liked the game but not the giving.


However, check this bad boy out: during a typical week, the MND Association would typically receive £200,000  ($370k) a week in donations, but during the week of 22-29 August, it received £2.7m ($5m). So in spite of the hype, and the fact that for weeks you couldn’t find literally anything else on Facebook, there’s no question that the real winner here was the MND Association.


This leads to another question. With so much money being raised for charity, how do we know where it goes? This is our hard-earned cash, and I’ve had more than a few people say in hushed tones ‘yeah, but we don’t really know where it all goes….’


When researching this post (yes, I do look into what I write you know!), I asked Oxfam and the Children’s Society all about their sporty-fundraising, and where their money goes. I approached these two because I personally am interested in the work they do, and because Oxfam has an international focus, where as The Children’s Society seems to work more on a UK level. Here’s what I found out:



Oxfam rely on sporting events a lot to contribute to their overall fundraising. At this year’s Great North Run, they had 350 runners who raised a minimum of £300 each, totaling approximately £105,000. The London Marathon is so popular that they can ask runners to raise a minimum of £2,000 each. In 2014, their 72 places meant they received approximately £144,000.


This is big bucks we’re talking about. The Great North money alone is 2.3 is times the annual salary of a couple with two kids– so you’d better be confident in where it’s going. Here is a breakdown for every £1 donated:

  • 82p goes to emergency, development and campaign work
  • 9p on support
  • 9p invested to generate future income through fundraising

The 82p goes into their General Fund, which goes towards a number of different projects they are working on.


Children's Society


The Children’s Society raised £5 million from fundraising events each year. Runners for the London Marathon are asked to raise £2,000, and last year they received £164,000 from 73 runners. From every £1, 72p goes directly towards services to help disadvantaged or vulnerable children. For every £1 they invest in fundraising, they generate another £4.30.


In 2013-2014, their total spend included:

  • Services to children: £29.4m
  • Trading, inc. shops: £6.8m
  • Fundraising: £5.9m
  • Campaigning, research and policy: £4.8m
  • Other: £0.3m


So, when we support someone who is running for charity, it seems the lion’s share actually finds its way to The Cause, whatever it might be. Which, let’s face it, is reassuring.  Some organisations such as Tearfund use the additional money raised by Gift Aid to cover their admin costs, meaning that even more donation money goes to the front line.


Our sponsorships are hard earned: the giver works hard to earn their salaries, and the runner works hard pounding the pavements in all weather training for an event that seemed like such a good idea at the time. It feels like charity running and fundraising is growing in popularity (although I don’t have any figures for this), and while it may seem like Just Giving pages are waging war all over Facebook for prominence, behind many of them are individuals who are trying to make a difference: to themselves, and to the world. And that’s why they’re Supremely Good Citizens of Society.


Ok, that was a fairly sanctimonious end. I was honestly really pleased that my research showed such a high proportion of each donation going towards project work, which may have influenced the tone of this post. The next post will deviate from this, and look at my own approach to charity running, as well as some different opinions from my runners group amigos……


Ellie B



  1. Anon (16 November 2013). Children in Need beats record total after raising £31m [WWW]. Available from: [Accessed: 12th October 2014]
  2. Collinson, P. (25 March 2014). UK Incomes: How does your salary compare? [WWW]. Available from: [Accessed: 12th October 2014]
  3. Townsend, L. (2 September 2014). How much has the Ice Bucket Challenge Achieved? [WWW]. Available from: [Accessed: 12th October 2014]
  4. Wikipedia (page modified on 4 October 2014). London Marathon [WWW]. Available from: [Accessed 12th October 2014]


Information regarding The Children’s Society, Oxfam, Tearfund, and City2Surf was sought through email and phone correspondence with them.