I watched Channel 4's Dispatches programme tonight. That will come as a surprise to many. Yes I have a television (since a few months ago), yes I watch television and yes I usually only watch Channel 4 news. I have no idea if the claims made are true. It sounded shocking and certainly seemed to lack transparency. But is it true? No idea. The controversy is already building though.
I can tell you that I've run a few marathons and almost always (but not absolutely always) through the ballot. In 2007, though, I vowed to run no marathon unless I won a free place. This was triggered after I entered the NY marathon via a charity place and found that the charity had to pay my entrance fee AND the cost of flights and hotels even though I PAID for those independently. I flew to NY on AirMiles and stayed in a hotel on a different kind of AirMiles and yet the charity I supported ended up paying nonetheless, so the £2,500 odd I raised was doubtless reduced. I know, though, that justgiving.com (who I have used for every run I've done) take their own cut of each donation.
Those who know me will know that I have usually raised money for Macmillan Cancer Support - a charity I hold very dear, all the more so recently. In the last few years I have raised over £20,000 through donations from friends, colleagues, suppliers and other generous people as well as giving money each month personally. The tax man has kindly topped up that amount by 28% or so.
This year I decided not to run any marathons - mostly because of an injured knee that didn't quite seem up to it - and, instead, calculated how much time it took to train for a marathon (including all training, racing, travel time and so on). The number I came up with was 100 hours.
I decided to donate my 100 hours to a charity and chose Combat Stress. So I've given them at least 100 hours of my time in the next couple of months - and I expect to increase that time once I better understand how I can help. I've said that I will do anything that they want - from standing on a street corner raising funds to working with donors, helping figure out grants, managing internal structures and so on. We're talking now about what that all means but from May 4th, I'm giving Combat Stress large chunks of my time.
Is Channel 4's story true? I have no idea; I hope not, of course. This year's London Marathon is locked and loaded and takes place in 2 weeks. 40,000+ runners will start and I want them all to experience what I've experienced - the highs and lows of a big run - and to know that they have raised good money for their chosen charity. Next year might be different if the allegations stick - or there will, at least, be a greater degree of transparency that shows everyone where the money goes.
in 2010 I will be cheering London Marathon runners on, but I will be "spending" my time with Combat Stress and hoping that the input time leads to a far greater multiplier on the output side than I could achieve through running a marathon. I haven't (yet) given up running marathons though and perhaps I'll be back.
Whether Channel 4 is right or wrong on this, I'd encourage everyone to think whether they can give 100 minutes, 100 hours, 100 days or some other substantial amount of their time to a charity of their choice. I suspect that 100 somethings of your time is more valuable than you raising the equivalent money and passing it through various channels to the charity, especially if each of the channels takes their cut.
We could maybe start a movement ... 100 hours for your chosen charity.