A few weeks ago I was set a challenge; to run a marathon. “That’s not much of a challenge” I hear you say. “You’ve done a few of those before”. But this one was going to be different. During this one I had to try and have as much positive impact as possible and then hold a talk about the positive impact at the end of the run. Blimey. That sounds a little harder! What could I do? I’d heard about the Good Gym, a community of runners that do good while getting fit, and it got me thinking about what I could do…
Firstly, I decided to rope in a friend so that the impact was instantly doubled. Clever, huh?! We set about brainstorming what impact we could achieve together. I often walked past a lot of homeless people on my way to work yet I rarely dipped into my pocket to give them any money. In fact, as most people do, I often walked on by rarely paying them any attention. So we decided to pay them a visit. But we wouldn’t just talk to them, we’d offer them a treat, something they probably rarely have, a chocolate brownie.
The night before the run I made a batch of delicious chocolate brownies (these are to die for!), wrapping three in each packet to hand out along the route. The following morning I packed my bag and got myself ready to set off. Given the purpose of having as much positive impact as possible, I decided to wear a pair of bright and very tight pink leggings in the hope that I would make people smile. I also wrote a sign explaining what George and I were up to, attached it to my bag and set off.
Within minutes of leaving home I found myself reaching down to pick up some litter. Totally unnecessary given the prevalence of bins in London, but sure enough I found myself doing this all along the towpath through Hammersmith and along the Embankment towards Victoria. I met up with George who had done similar good deeds along the way.
Eight miles in, we set about running past the regular homeless hangouts to share our treats, spending time with each to hear their story. It was fascinating to find out how they became homeless, how long they’d been on the streets and what it’s like to live that way. But they all appreciated the brownies.
Our next stop was to head back along the river for a few miles before stopping off at Oasis Farm in Waterloo. It’s a community run initiative that gets school groups and people within the community interested in where their food comes from. The kids get to spend time planting and nurturing their crops, as well as helping to rear some of the animals. They had a few heavy and dirty jobs they needed a hand with, so George and I set about moving piles of wood and sweeping out the sheep pen in exchange for a refill of our water bottles. Another good deed ticked off, and we were just over half way through!
We continued our run; music blaring and making people smile as we moved through the streets. At times we decided to leave a little note and present of brownies for the homeless that were tucked up in their sleeping bags, like Santa would in the depths of winter. We ran up and around Hampstead Heath to make up some mileage and back towards Kings Cross, the finishing line of our run.
Before we reached our destination, we met Simon, a homeless man watching Wimbledon on the screen outside an office block. He seemed pretty happy and as we chatted he opened up about his life on the streets. He’d been homeless for over four years having left home after finding his wife in bed with another man when he came back from Afghanistan. Now his only way of staying in touch with his son was via his mobile, but he’d recently had his bag stolen, meaning he’d lost his clothes and phone charger. We explained our run to him, handing over the rest of the brownies and a little money for him to buy a new phone charger when he suddenly burst into tears explaining that what we were doing was incredible. He’d never heard of anyone doing such a thing. He told us that awareness of their problems and acknowledgement as a human being is all people on the street are after. It’s not hard, but it’s rare to actually receive. George and I ran the 26th mile to our destination in stunned silence at our last encounter.
Upon completion, we proceeded to share our good deeds and interactions that we’d had throughout our run with an audience of over 40 in the hope that some of them might be inspired to do something similar one day.
I just hope those on the front row forgave me for the ‘impact’ I may have had in those ridiculously tight, bright pink leggings as I spoke!
I didn't train specifically for this marathon, but there are loads of great training plans out there that you can tailor to fit around your schedule. Something like this might work well if you're looking.