Scafell, England’s highest mountain – photo by me
This year the wife and I decided to set ourselves a bit of a goal.
As most of our friends already know, we enjoy a bit of fell running – i.e. racing up and down hills and mountains. While it can be quite hard at times, it’s also a lot of fun and there is usually loads of cake at the end.
It’s also improved my geography no end. By visiting various wild places in the UK, it’s amazing how you get a feel for how each place differs; the feel of the ground, the rocks, and even the colours and smells of that particular landscape give it it’s own individual character.
Obviously, there are the well known landmarks of the UK – the highest peaks: Ben Nevis, Snowdon, Scafell, and the slightly lesser known Donard in Northern Ireland. They’re each quite amazing places in their own way and draw in thousands of visitors year round.
As you would expect, there are also officially organised mountain races for each peak, where a few hundred competitors of all ages race to the top and back down.
Since we got into this fell running lark, there’s always been an assumption between Rach and I that these were races we’d get round to ‘at some point’. No need to rush. That said… earlier in the year an idea took form and crystallised:
Let’s run them – each of them – this year.
And let’s do the Yorkshire Three Peaks as well.”
Why not? Sounds like a good adventure!
The Mourne Wall running over Slieve Donard – Photo by Philip Milne
HOW I STRUGGLE WITH THE IDEA OF RUNNING FOR CHARITY
Now for the charity bit. Oh god, not another one, I hear you groan. Just bear with me…
Some people are really good at publicising challenges and using them to leverage raising money for great causes. They can talk eloquently and effortlessly in a way that comes across as humble and inspiring rather than conceited and, at worse, patronising.
For me, honestly, I find that side of things tricky. While many of the races I’ve done help to raise money for the needs of the specific communities that host the race, I’ve never actually attempted to raise money for a specific charity. Not once.
I don’t run for charity, I run because I enjoy it. And because I enjoy it, it doesn’t quite seem like an appropriate thing to ask people to dig into their pockets for.
Most of my friends know, I do these daft races all the time. Rach and I are always off away in the hills. Why would I ask for money for something I do most weekends anyway – it would be like asking to be sponsored for going down the pub on a Friday night.
But, I’m a bit of a cynical, curmudgeonly man at times. I know this. And while I might not be able to raise money for chaaaridee with a straight face, I can at least try to do something positive; pass on something from my experiences to others which might ripple on to do some wider good.
Indulge me while I describe what we’ve done (are doing), and then I’ll finish off with something I hope people will feel like getting involved in.
Tomorrow Rachel and I are running the Scafell Pike fell race – Scafell Pike is up in the Lake District and it’s the highest mountain in England. It’s also the last of the four major UK peaks which we’ll have run.
That’s right, we’ve already done the others. No mucking about. Just to summarise:
- Slieve Donard (2,785 ft) – Highest mountain in N.I. – Race took place in March.
- Snowdon (3,560 ft) – Highest in Wales – Race was in July.
- Ben Nevis (4,409 ft) – Highest in Scotland and whole of UK – Start of September.
- Scafell Pike (3,209 ft) – Highest in England – race is 20/09/14 (tomorrow!)
Oh and the Yorkshire Three Peaks Race comprised:
- Pen-y-ghent (2,277 ft), Whernside (2,415 ft), and Ingleborough (2,372 ft) – although the total climb over the 23 mile race route is 5276 ft. This was back in April.
I won’t bore you with the details of each race. They were amazing experiences but obviously still tough in their own ways. Especially Ben Nevis, where I managed to fall over about a mile from the finish line… All the rocks up there are sharp buggers. Along with bruised ribs, I really gave my left thigh muscles a good smashing in. Barely able to walk for a few days and I am still sore now…
So, if I am grimacing when I run up Scafell tomorrow, it’s because part of me is still trying to conquer Ben Nevis…!
Anyway. I said I wouldn’t bore you.
THE GOOD STUFF
Rach and I have bought a nice bottle of wine to celebrate completing our own challenge, something that we set out to do together, as husband and wife (not to mention along with many of our wonderful running friends). I won’t lie: It has been great fun.
However, to personally mark the end of the challenge I also decided to do something charitable: to represent each of the 4 Highest UK peaks, I have donated a modest amount to four different charities. Not much at all but something.
I liked the idea of it being 4 and it prompted me to want to share an idea. Nominating people for charity challenges was all the rage recently, so here goes:
I nominate you – each of you – to do four good deeds in the near future.
You don’t have to give money to a charity if you can’t afford to do so, you could do something else instead. Everyone’s circumstances are different, so you’ll know best. The only thing is, it has to be something you’d go out of your way to do. On some level, small or large: a challenge.
Four things. One good deed for each of the mountains I dragged my scrawny, tired legs up and down (and which my wife gracefully ran).
There is no page to record your deeds. Nothing to sign up to. You don’t need to share them with anyone, and I don’t want you to tell me about it. There is no hashtag.
Just do them, mentally tick them off, and then have a nice cup of tea or coffee or even a beer to personally celebrate.
You might already do good deeds all the time. In which case this will be really easy for you (and also, sincerely, good on you).
I wish I could write more eloquently – and could succinctly add something inspiring about life being short, the value of challenging yourself, the importance of wild places, some rubbish about getting fit, secrets of peace and harmony, and all that jazz.
But honestly, I just like running about on hills, so that’s all I got.
I would really be chuffed if it was enough to inspire some genuine good.
Four things. Off you go.
Sincere thanks for reading.