In the immortal words of ABBA, “Money, money, money”. And now, forty-five years hence, with their place in this blog, Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid have finally, at last, made it. Because their ode to wealth (and their lack thereof, which is clearly bollocks, because I’ve been to the ABBA Museum in Stockholm, and they clearly had money) is perfectly apt for this months’ instalment of literary diarrhoea.
Over the past six-and-a-half months, whilst I’ve either been holed up on a hospital ward projectile vomiting, or gallivanting around the world, other selfless (don’t let it go to your heads) individuals have given up their time, energy and sanity for the cause of raising funds for Cancer Research UK. Old friends from school to closest family, complete strangers to BFFs (even writing an acronym like that makes me physically ill), young to old, have forfeited their wellbeing off the back of nothing more spurious than the bollocks that I write on here, and for that, I am truly, truly humbled.
Tim Fulford, the lanky Southern arsehole of a mate from back in my Cardiff days, kicked everything off by running the Stockholm (appropriate) Marathon, alongside his consiglieri Jack. Garrick Diamond – my brother in wine and ethnicity – soon followed that up with a mammoth sportive around the Isle of Wight, with the three raising a small fortune to set the ball rolling. Dave Smart, the most Yorkshireman I have ever met, then set up a football day that raised a small fortune. The spectacularly ugly Charlie and James Thomas then took a huge hit by taking on the full-length Tough Mudder in Henley-on-Thames, from which their bodies and minds will never recover. As said minds hadn’t recovered, they fixed up a major football tournament in Devon, and Charlie then went on to do the British Three Peaks alongside his dad Ian. Charlie is now, as you might imagine, extremely close to death.
Spring and then summer continued in earnest, providing gloriously Saharan conditions for the fundraising season. The O’Donovans Olivia, Carmel and Charles, possibly by reason of insanity, meant they just had to run the Paris Marathon. The O’Donovan of the James variety then went on for the Washington, D.C. Triathlon alongside his significantly better half, Steph Sobek. A horde of friends from Cookridge Hall, led by the 80s German pornstar that is Liam Stables, took on the challenge of the Yorkshire Three Peaks in hilariously atrocious conditions. Greg Saunders, alongside some of his closest and dearest, then amped up the challenge by doing the aforementioned by tabbing it with 100lbs on his back. The man is a freak, and I’m not just talking about his face (http://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/leeds-man-s-weighty-charity-challenge-on-the-yorkshire-three-peaks-1-8776170).
Sharon and Rebecca Blackburn organised a major coffee morning, as well as running another obstacle course. Northern Ballet, one of the preeminent ballet companies in Europe, ran a bake sale that kept pushing the total higher. Natalie Whittaker then threw herself out of a plane (there was a parachute, thank Christ) over Durham, which was swiftly followed by Claire Thorne and her partner Neal taking on Tough Mudder, the second of the summer. Bernadette and Marie at the Leeds Sports Injury & Physiotherapy Clinic 'The Treadmill' then braved the psychotic drivers of the A58 for a major sportive around Wetherby, as well as a host of other fundraising activities and challenges. In a similar vein, Will McPhee and Alun Davies cycled the length of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, tandem, no less. God knows how they're still friends, after that.
The fun, however, was far from over, and the guilt I kept laying on others had an endless supply. Ailsa Gunn and Rachel Dunn organised a huge quiz evening at Sand Moor Golf Club in North Leeds, raising over a whopping £3000. In the process, Leeds United legends Eddie Gray and Norman Hunter (who once kicked me when I was seven at one of his football camps, #NeverForget) gave up their time to auction off lunch and a round of golf with them (special thanks to another Leeds stalwart, Tommy Henderson, for fixing this up).
My partially retarded brother, Rhys, decided as he’d been such a twat to me growing up that he better start redeeming himself, and thus decided to take on the challenges of both the Yorkshire Half Marathon and the Leeds Triathlon, finishing in some daft times. My equally annoying ‘mother’ (I’m convinced I’m adopted), April, very nearly drowned on Loch Lomond during the Great Scottish Swim, but contrary to prior predictions, completely demolished the course and is now set for many more open water swims and swift kicks to the head. This, mind you, was all orchestrated by none other than Juliet Stone, who coerced dear mother into very nearly forfeiting her life in the waters of Scotland, herself doing the Great Scottish Swim for the second time, alongside her sœur. A case of aquatic insanity. Simon Heslop then tried topping everyone by running the Midnight Sun Marathon up in Trømso, above the Arctic Circle, alongside a long-time running partner and friend. The insanity just kept circling the insanity.
Summer slowly drew to an end, the sunburn abated, Leeds United began the season in stunning fashion, and Hurricane Ophelia left the eye of Sauron in the sky, but the challenges didn’t end so quickly, like Leeds’ promotion hopes. Jack Hart, my favourite West Walian, led Britannia Royal Naval College’s Defender Division through the Cardiff Half Marathon. Katie Geal led the horde of Geal’s through the Fifteen-Mile Yorkshire Endurance Course Challenge over the North Yorkshire Moors, and Carole Ramsden walked the length of the Skipton Canal. There are truly no shortages of heroes without capes.
We’re moving into a period of time where both outdoor challenges and my spectacular chat dips down somewhat, as a consequence of the rotation of the earth and our winter months. But that’s not to say that all is lost for the season; in March, at the end of the Six Nations on Sunday 18th March, former England Rugby Head Coach Stuart Lancaster has kindly accepted an invitation to speak at our Sportsmans’ Luncheon at Sand Moor Golf Club (fixed up by the amazing Danni and Jo Dobson), alongside another soon to be announced guest. We’ll be having a major auction to boot, with the likes of a pair of Wladimir Klitschko-signed gloves and memorabilia from across all major sports up for grabs. Feel free to get in touch if you’d like to get involved. Further to that, I’ll be trying to speed up the process of my death by running both the London and Paris Marathon’s in the space of two weeks, swiftly followed by hiking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal over the course of three weeks. The following September, if I haven’t ‘done one’ by that point, Rhys and I have the UK Ironman to get through. The fun just never ends, nor does the beautiful, beautiful pain.
There is, obviously or otherwise, an underlying element to all of this that makes all these challenges and endeavours succeed; donations. The literal thousands upon thousands of individual donations, from the lunch money to the inheritance, that has enabled us to reach £42,000 (inc. gift aid) in just over six months. Each donation, however small, however big, requires a degree of empathy that at each and every point reaffirms our faith in humanity, one kindness at a time. Each donation is as humbling as it is gratifying, as is the offers to take up the mantle of fundraising from these friends and family that have so graciously given so freely. Theirs is the legacy of this entire endeavour. Not me nor mine. For that, they have my heartfelt thanks, and the gratitude to the depths of which they will never truly know.
Now, after all of that soppy bollocks, back to ABBA.