Make a change. Run for your charity.
By Natalia Borg
Free, alive, strong and happy – these are the first things that come to mind when I think about running. Those who don’t run often say “oh boy, running, nah it’s not for me. Why do you run?” I run for the fitness, for the achievement, for that sense of freedom, for the fun of it and because I can. But on Sunday 6th of April I’m running for one very different reason; I running for my charity – The Clock Tower Sanctuary.
The Clock Tower Sanctuary is a drop-in center offering information, advice and support to 16 – 25 year old homeless and insecurely housed young people. The Sanctuary provides a friendly safe space, food and drink, access to computers and the internet, signposting to housing, health, education, employment and social services – as well as practical and emotional support to help young people get their lives back on track.
I remember seeing people sleeping in the streets of Brighton when my mum used to take my sister and I shopping. I have a very vivid image of it in my head. I am about 10 years old, holding my mum’s hand thinking, ‘I hate shopping’ and ‘don’t look at those people, they are scary’. My perception has changed a lot since then.
I started volunteering in the homeless sector back in 2009. I had read about homelessness in Detroit and decided, that was it, I needed to go to America and sort it out. However, as my mum tactfully pointed out, Brighton had its own housing and social issues so perhaps I should start there.
I have been involved with The Sanctuary for a good few years now and it has had a huge impact on my outlook on life. I have met the most genuine, kind, resilient and funny people at the center. Being homeless or insecurely housed affects everything. It often involves other social, financial, health and personal issues. No matter how long I work in the homeless sector, I don’t think I will ever be able to comprehend the loneliness, vulnerability and uncertainty that young people in this position must feel. To be honest, I’m not sure I ever really want to know.
So on Sunday I will run. I will pound the streets of Brighton where I grew up and where I have watched young people sit in their sleeping bags and pitch up their tents. I will run the Brighton Marathon in support of The Clock Tower Sanctuary. Let’s make a change.
Thank you for reading my story. Please donate by visiting my JustGiving page www.justgiving.com/nataliaborg
For more information of The Clock Tower Sanctuary visit www.thects.org.uk/
Do you also have an inspiring story?
By Christel Price
The alarm goes off, but I don’t have to get up. Free will is my friend. I hit the snooze button and go back to dreaming in a world where I didn’t sign up to run 42 kilometers in a foreign country. A world where exercise doesn’t exist.
I have a love/hate relationship with running. Mostly, I love to hate it. Why do I do it? Most days I ask myself the same question.
I’ve always envied those people in the gym who you just know are fitness freaks. Who love to exercise and their bodies are evidence of that fact. I’ve always longed to become a part of that club; deep down knowing I will never really belong there. I’m a resistant runner, slightly allergic to exercise. The thought of it makes me break out in hives.
Three years ago I decided I wanted to run a marathon. I told a friend and he said, “You’ll never do it”. It’s funny how people’s lack of belief can drive you to do insane things, like actually signing up to run a marathon.
I used to love running cross-country as a child, but unfortunately that love faded when I became a whining teenager and it never returned. Despite this fact, in 2013 I felt it was time to commit. Living in London, I called my mum in New Zealand to convince her that we should sign up to run the Paris Marathon this year. She said, “Ok”. Damn it.
In preparation I signed up to run a 10 kilometer charity race. In the name of goodwill the organisers made us do aerobics for an hour to get energized before we even crossed the start-line. I thought Dear God, please take me to heaven where people don’t have to run, only float.
At the one kilometer mark I felt a strong desire to meet the person who invented running, simply to ask them why? The stronger, more driven part of Christel managed to drag us over the finish line and I received a medal for my efforts. I asked if I could trade it in for money. A volunteer told me the prized piece was not made from gold, like Olympic medals. I felt slightly hard done by and questioned whether signing up for the race was a good investment. I was then reminded it was all in the name of charity, and so I felt good about myself again.
Next came the marathon’s mini-me, the half marathon. I decided to support Nike shoes and entered into Run To The Beat in Greenwich. A half marathon that’s all about music, I thought if anything could get me over the finish line it would be the sound of One Direction’s What Makes You Beautiful being blasted throughout the course. The boy band was correct; at that point in my life I didn’t know I was beautiful. Sweaty, struggling to breathe, red in the face, I doubt anybody realised that I was beautiful.
I managed to cross that finish line, despite a one kilometer climb at the end of the race doing everything in its power to stop me. Never have I been more thankful to sit on my bum.
On April 6th 2014 I will face the greatest challenge of my life, the marathon. I’m afraid. I hope it’s kind to my knees. I hope I live to tell the tale. If I don’t, I would like my tombstone to read: Taken out by a marathon, but don’t cry, she no longer has to run, only float.
At this point any sane person would ask, “Why the hell have you signed up to run a marathon?” Well, my dear friend, to prove to myself that I can do it. Will Smith says, “When you’re running, there’s a little person that talks to you and says, “Oh I’m tired. My lungs are about to pop. I’m so hurt. There’s no way I can possibly continue.” You want to quit. If you learn how to defeat that person when you’re running you will know how to not quit when things get hard in your life.” I know if I can overcome a marathon it will make me a stronger person. I will be able to overcome other challenges that come my way.
Never will a Facebook status update be more rewarding than the one I plan to post on April 6th 2014. I can see it now: Dear virtual friends, I’ve just run 42 kilometers. What did you do today?
Bio: Christel Price is a Kiwi who currently lives in London. After working as a news journalist for three years she decided to start her own blog where she writes about everything, except the news. You can check out more of her writing at I’m Half Price. www.imhalfprice.com
Kent Ong, Founder of Inspire University and Inspire Magazine, recently ran a marathon in support of World Vision Malaysia. He was inspired by Crowdrunning’s vision and got in touch with us from his home in Malaysia. He kindly shared his story with Crowdrunning.
Q. What made you decide to start running?
At first, I just wanted to run to improve my health, but then I realized I needed a better reason. I’m Christian and although I go to church regularly I felt that I was getting too comfortable; I wanted to help others, especially poor children in Malaysia, and I decided to use running as a way to do that. So I signed up for a marathon to run in support of World Vision Malaysia.
I never thought that I could finish a 42 kilometer race, especially since I never received any professional training. It was a very tough marathon. The race was on 14th October 2013 and to this day I have still not fully recovered! I feel proud that I was able to raise 450 US Dollars for charity. Without support from my close friend, Chai Chin, I would never have been able to do it! My thanks go out to her!
Q. Why did you choose to run for World Vision Malaysia?
I chose World Vision Malaysia because it is well established charity in Malaysia which functions as a partnership of interdependent national offices that have a common mission, and I really like the level of transparency. By focusing on community transformation, advocacy and emergency relief, the charity is improving the quality of life of Malaysian children in need.
I created a charity campaign called “1km1 Charity Campaign”. The “1km1” means, for every one kilometer I run, sponsors donate one Malaysian Ringgit. Twenty-five people have donated so far — 24 are from Malaysia and one from America. I made a fun image on Facebook to thank all my sponsors!
In the future I would also like to run in support of local orphanages.
Q. What is your favourite running route in the world?
My favorite place to run is in Lake Garden Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I run 18 loops to complete 42 Kilometers.
Q. Do you have advice for fellow runners?
Inspire people to do something different! To this end I started a website, www.inspireuniversity.co and Inspire Magazine to inspire people to achieve what they want to achieve in their lives with success stories from ordinary people and extraordinary people. I also created a Facebook page Run for Jesus with the goal to offer all the money fundraised to churches and charities.
By Tom Norman
The reason I started running was of course to keep healthy and to test myself and remain regularly active.
But since I’ve started more and more reasons have emerged.
First of all, I feel running is often a fantastic way of meditating. When I first began I would always run with music blaring, but one day by accident my music stopped because my earphones broke and so I ran the rest of my journey in silence. But I haven’t listened to music whilst running since, as I find it a really nice time to appreciate nature and to open my mind to guiltless daydreams.
Secondly, I find running is a great way to improve your own mental strength. On a long run, sometimes you can get to a stage where you’re tired and want to give up and start walking, and running gives you the fantastic opportunity to test yourself, to build your endurance and focus on overcoming obstacles.
For me, running isn’t just a habit to keep healthy anymore. It’s a challenge, it’s a form of meditation and it’s part of my life.
I always wanted to find a way to unite my passion for running with helping others. Earlier this year I came up with the idea for a social enterprise called Crowdrunning that will connect people all over the world to run together in support of charities and grassroots projects in their own communities through pop-up running events.
When I heard May El Khalil`s TED talk about how she organized the largest running event in the Middle East to promote peace, I knew right away that I wanted to support her. I shared my Crowdrunning idea with May and she liked the concept so much that she invited me to Beirut to talk about how we could work together to realize our common vision. She also offered me a place in the Beirut Marathon 2013 as guest.
Two days before the event I arrived in the Beirut airport, feeling nervous about the challenge ahead : I had never run in a marathon before, and to make things worse I hadn’t trained enough! Thankfully, I didn’t have time to think about it. A taxi was waiting for me outside the airport and, together with three other people from the UK (who had apparently taken the same flight as me), I went straight to the restaurant where we had been invited to have dinner with May and her colleagues.
The day before the Marathon and I woke up in a city full of energy and life . I was eager to discover Beirut , and since I had go out to the centre to pick up my running bib I decided to turn it into an excuse to go sightseeing. I think that getting lost is the best way to discover hidden corners of a city. Unfortunately I got lost too many times and I often had to ask for the right direction in creative ways that did not involve speaking English. I finally found the hotel and I only had time to drop off my running bib before I headed off to May’s flat, where I had been kindly asked to dine with her family and colleagues.
On the day of the marathon I woke up at 4:30 am feeling full energy , despite having suffered from a sleepless night. It was a beautiful, fresh morning. On the bus ride over to the start-line, I met two fellow Germans from Berlin and we agreed to run together for moral support — which we definitely all needed.
The run across Beirut was unforgettable. Among other districts, we ran through Saifi, Al Mazra`a and Jal ed Dib. Military personnel were constantly present, reminding us of Lebanon’s history of political conflict. At the same time, hundreds of us were running together for peace — straight past the military — and people from across the political spectrum came together to cheer us on. It felt amazing.
When I reached 25k my legs felt like blocks of lead, the sun beat down with merciless heat, and I began to doubt whether I could finish. It was at this point in the race that May’s husband and veteran marathon runner strode past me with a broad smile, full of energy as if he had only run a few yards. Then I realized how remarkable an athlete he is!
We continued running, passed the 30k mark and finally 35k. The last 7k were the hardest — both physically and psychologically. It got really hot, we were all sweating and in pain, but kept going and supported each other.
Finally, l crossed the finish line after 5 hrs, 1 min, and 27 sec.! Exhausted and covered in blisters, I had never been so happy after a race!
I could barely walk the next day. Going up the stairs was next to impossible — each step reminded me painfully of each meter of the marathon, but I had a great evening to look forward to: May invited me to another dinner. The dinner was amazing and I had never met with such kindness and hospitality. I also got know some great people, including Jackson Griffith, John Crofoot, David Silver, Peter Higher or Steve Marsh, who shared their inspirational stories.
I’m proud that I was one of 36,006 runners who came together to run for peace in Lebanon. Unfortunately, political conflict and violence is still a reality in the capital. Just ten days after the marathon, a bomb exploded next to Iran’s embassy in Beirut, killing 35 and injuring at least 140 people. When I heard the news, I couldn’t believe that I was running in the same exact spot just over a week ago. This latest tragedy is a painful reminder that “peacemaking is not a sprint, but more of a Marathon.” There are still many challenges ahead, but if we stick to it and work together we will eventually reach the finish line: peace in Lebanon and the in the rest of the world.
May and Faith El Khalil showed me that in order to make a difference we have to build a community, and getting people to run together is a perfect way to do that. This run will remain in my memory forever as one of
the most inspiring experiences, and in the future I can proudly tell my kids that I ran my very first marathon in Beirut!
My thanks go to May and Faith El Khalil for the amazing adventure.