It was on Twitter on the 27th June that the Donkey Sanctuary placed a tweet calling for runners for the 2015 London Marathon, to raise money for the charity.
It was a fairly fast decision, but a heart-felt and also rational one.
I have long supported the aims of the Donkey Sanctuary and I have a book written by its founder. I regularly respond to the tweets of the charity I walked from Worcester to Santiago de Compostela in 2008 and raised a considerable sum for Whizz Kids, the children’s mobility charity. I raised forty thousand pounds for an AIDS charity when I cycled across Europe from England to Istanbul. I ran around a parade square for 24 hours when I was in the RAF and raised money for Shelter, the homeless housing charity. At that time I ran long-distance races for the RAF. Now, I am much older but I know what training is needed for an event.
I considered the question carefully. This would need 100% dedication over ten months and would need to be timetabled into a full-time job, plus the usual two hours a day minimum spent on my own donkeys, plus I needed to spend three hundred pounds on an entry fee, guarantee to raise at least a thousand pounds, pay for my fare to London next April, plus get unpaid time off from work either side of the marathon. Such was my enthusiasm, I went for it.
There was one other motivating factor: the Donkey Sanctuary has been advertising its campaign to stop the maltreatment of donkeys in the holiday resort of Santorini. I cannot bear to see donkeys treated like that, for I have four adult donkeys who live a quiet and stress-free life while I go out to work to pay for their needs. These gentle creatures are our teachers, not our slaves, and they must not suffer just to satisfy the curiosity of mere tourists! I made up my mind to run the marathon.
“There we are then,” I thought to myself, “Now you’ve done it!” When I set my mind to something, with conviction, it happens. All I could think of was the practical steps ahead: the change of diet, the need for a training plan, the new timetable of getting up long before dawn… etc. A local friend who has run the London Marathon offered to come out and train with me.
I received an email from the Donkey Sanctuary asking for a postal address and they said they would be posting some further information. On the strength of this, I worked out a ten-month training plan with the PE teacher at the school where I work – a trained sports scientist – and we decided training should begin immediately. He advised on the proper fitting and purchase of running shoes…
Luckily I had not yet spent the 140 Euros I had intended to invest on a pair of Asics when I found out today what the actual situation is with these five marathon places, for it was not made clear ten days ago when I began this whole process.
I have now received an email informing me that I should fill in a form providing further information together with my previous experience and my plan for fundraising. Then my application will be considered and I will learn on 31st August whether the Donkey Sanctuary wishes me to be one of their charity runners. Two months into a gruelling training programme, I will learn whether there is any point in my efforts!
At this point, I simply wrote to the charity and withdrew my offer to run. Over the years charities have evolved into big organisations with highly sophisticated fund-raising professionals running their financial affairs. I felt quite foolish for thinking it was simply a matter of volunteering and committing myself to a lot of time and hard work, when what they actually wanted was a business plan with a two month wait to see if it was a successful bid.
Well, at least the donkeys are relieved that I am no longer intending to spend most of the next year focused on raising money for the donkey charity: I’ll have more time for donkeys…
Now he’s not buying the running shoes, maybe we will get more carrots?
A disappointing experience. Maybe some thought needs to go into better charity communications? Perhaps charities have simply become businesses now? Or maybe I should just stop reading Twitter!