Raising money for a good cause is always heartwarming and makes you feel part of something special. The chance or ability to help someone else is extremely rewarding. Knowing that an individual has received treatment, surgery, books or simply attention is something that make you feel special.
Contrary to many beliefs, it doesn’t always have to involve giving money. Charity includes giving clothes, help someone or invest personal (and interest) in something bigger than you.
I have participated in several charity events over the years. They were far from world domination or historical noteworthy, but they still made me feel special and part of something that mattered.
My first taste of charity was painful – literally. I had just joined the company and wanted to get involved and get to know people in the organization. No better way to meet people than participating in a social events. So, I signed up for a charity bicycle race, well knowing I hadn’t been on a bike for almost a decade!
How hard could it be? What’s the saying? “You never forget how to ride a bicycle”, but you quick forget how sore your arse gets from the saddle, despite how soft or arse-dynamic it might be!
Here’s a valuable piece of information. Do some background research BEFORE you sign up to any event, just to make sure you know what you are getting yourself into. Between the lines, you might read that I hadn’t done my homework.
Little did I know that I had signed up to a 20 mile road race, which I only discovered on the day of the race. The good thing was that it was a “short” ride around the Irish country side, which has some beautiful landscapes and nice hills, so might be an opportunity for me to discover the hidden treasures and take several pictures.
One minor obstacle was that I didn’t own a bicycle and had to invest in something that would take me from A – B, and not cost me an arm and a leg. So I bought a 2nd hand mountain bike. You know, the one with huge frame and enormous tires, perfect for off-loading.
My health and shape was probably below average. I was smoking like a chimney, ate food that would make Jamie Oliver fringe and I didn’t own a track suit.
Despite these minor challenges, I was looking forward to the race.
The weather forecast was slightly over cast, so grey but no rain, so I dressed in my Caterpillar boots and jeans, and have a light jumper on. And, just in case, I had my backpack with a raincoat and some dry socks – you always need to bring dry socks according to Bear Grylls.
At the starting line, I met my colleagues. We were joking a bit, I had some coffee and a few cigarettes – just to prepare mentally for the big race.
As I walked outside to the starting line, I discovered several hard-core bicycle enthusiasts. They had all the Tour de Ireland gear, slick light bikes and of course the very tight hot pants. I never really understood the obsession of showing off the family jewels in public and look like a male ballet dancer. Some things are just not meant to be understood!
As we lined up at the start line, some of the the biker freaks got very anxious, and started to push forward. They just had to be first over the start line. I was happy at the back, as that meant no attention or pressure. BANG! The race was on.
A small group of riders quickly broke free from the main peloton, and we got caught in a slipstream for a few seconds. It’s not like there were any prizes to win, but I guess the hope or possibility of finishing first was too much for some.
I really tried to keep up, not losing face in front of my new colleagues, but realized quickly that I was totally out of shape. I was peddling like a bag of spanners, totally lost my ability to pedal smoothly due to overexertion, but I still remained on my bike.
Within a mile I was out of breath. I had several stops for every mile thereafter, getting water and a smoke. It’s clear you are crap at something when you get overtaken by kids on their bikes, elderly people with their walkers and the mandatory crossing snail. It was a painful experience. A nasty combination of too much clothes, heavy bike, big boots and too many cigarettes. But, I was determined to finish the race. I couldn’t let me sponsors down. They had after all invested 300 Irish pounds (probably around 550 US dollars for my US followers) on my sponsor card. They had faith in me – but I had none in myself.
As I edged slowly forward, the finish line was soon within reach. Well, soon was probably overstated, but for every push in the pedals, I was closer to a deserved pint.
For the remaining mile, the sportsman came into me – finally – and I pushed hard in the pedals and made good speed. I had to reach the finish line. I had to complete the race … and I did!
I dragged myself and my bike across the finish line, and slowly headed to the cafeteria. There I was greeted by my colleagues enjoying a pint.
I had finished the race and supported a great cause. Man, I was so proud … and so knackered!