Since I announced my “Fit it in one” project, people have been asking a simple question: Why?
After answering this question over and over again in the past week, I realised that it is not as simple as I thought. In a typical conversation, I’ve been bombarded by a sequence of whys: Why? Why cancer? Why now? Why 12 marathons in one year?
The simple why
To raise funds for cancer research. That’s the easy one, but very few people stop here. Possibly only the ones that asked just for politeness.
That’s the second level of curiosity.
The first thing that makes cancer special is its reach. Ask anyone and they will have a relative, a friend, or at least a friend of friend that has been affected by cancer. The second one, in my view, is its unpredictable nature: a person that looks perfectly healthy today, may be laying on a hospital bed tomorrow awaiting for surgery. The third is the severity of cancer: in many cases it represents a real life threat.
These are all reasons that anyone could use to justify fundraising for cancer research. However, in many situations these are followed by very personal reasons, and my case is no different. My father and grandmother have both been through surgery for bowel cancer, I have a cousin that was treated for Hodgkin in his 20’s, relatives that died of lung cancer, and a few friends that have survived or are still battling cancer. When it is that close to you, you can’t turn your back to it.
It is funny how things work. Despite my family history and my personal connection with people with cancer, it took a person that I’ve only seen twice to trigger this project. It was a freezing morning in Canberra and I was coaching the last Saturday run of the Canberra pod of the Can Too Foundation. In the long runs we always have what we call the Energy Champ. This is a volunteer that is willing to be at 7am on a Saturday morning ready to hand drinks and lollies to our runners, and cheer them up as they pass the halfway mark. That Saturday our Energy Champ was there with her two kids. Because it was the last weekend before race day, we gathered at the meeting point after the run and talked about their race expectations and also why they were doing it. That was when our Energy Champ asked to say a few words. She thanked everyone for their effort for such a good cause. She then revealed, with her two kids by her side, that she is a cancer patient herself and that the money raised was helping research to increase her life expectancy. That hit me so hard that I immediately decided that I needed to do something special. I didn’t know what, but I knew I had to.
Why marathons? Why 12 in one year?
Driving back home I was thinking about what to do. In the previous fundraising events that I participated my results were pathetic. In most cases the only money I raised was what I put myself as part of the event registration. For some time I’ve been trying to find the reason for my inability to raise funds. It could be the lack of family in Australia, my discomfort in asking people for money, or simply that my friends don’t see those events as a real challenge for me.
Recently I tried to tackle the last problem. For the third time I joined the Bilby Bathers team and participated in the Mega Swim Canberra, a 24h relay swim event to raise funds for multiple sclerosis. What could I do to make it look more challenging? Well, first of all I said that I would be happy to take any available shift. I ended up with the 4am to 5am and the 6am to 7am shifts, and also joined the short distance team relay from 9:30 to 12pm. On top of that I arrived one hour earlier to count laps for the poor guy swimming at 3am. I was taking pictures and posting on Facebook. I got lots of likes and one donation! Woo hoo! But that was all… 😦
So, for my new fundraising project I decided to do something impressive, something that I would never do just for fun. Well, an Ironman is in my plans, so no. An Ultraman? Not in my plans (yet?) but the amazing Debi Hazelden and John Mergler had just done that, also raising funds for Can Too. As I was discarding crazy one-off events I thought of doing a long term project, just like the treatments that my friends and relatives went (or are going) through. That’s how I came up with the “Fit it in one” idea: 12 marathons in one year! And here I am less than a month away from the first 42.195 km!