Friday, 29 August 2008

5 minutes of fame ...

The other day, Cancer Research UK (CRUK) asked me if I'd mind if they put out a press release to the local media, telling them about my 365challenge - they reckoned I had a "story to tell" that would interest people. I'm not overly crazy about getting my picture in the paper, but I am now pretty passionate about 365challenge and I want more people to get involved, so I said yes. They sent through the copy, and after a little editing, we agreed the content, and they sent it out. The goal is to get the local press along to the 'launch' on Monday (Sept 1st), so we can get coverage in the local papers.

Today, the interest went up a notch: the local radio station - Dee 106.3 - called to interview me about the 365challenge and my plans for fund-raising for CRUK. I'm not sure how I'll come across ... I think it went smoothly enough, but only hearing it back will tell. They're planning to put it out on Sunday morning, August 31st, between 8 and 12 in the morning, around the news bulletins on the hour. So ... tune your internet to and click on the 'Listen' link to hear how I got on. IF it goes well, I'll try to get a copy of the audio to put on the website. Nothing like a little promotional material to keep the interest going.

They've also asked me to keep them informed of my progress over the 365 year, so hopefully I'll be able to keep the 365challeng in the public eye (or ear) for longer, and generate even funds more for CRUK.

Donna's started calling me the Jimmy Saville of Chester ... a bit unnecessary, if you ask me!

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

D-Day minus 5 ...

It's getting closer now ...just 5 days until I have to actually start this 365challenge. One of the therapists at my consulting rooms summed it up quite nicely, I thought ..."mental, mental, mental". Well, that might be a little strong, but I guess it is going to be a real challenge for me, and that's the whole point - I want to earn my sponsorship, and this is the best way I can think to do that.

What's really motivating though is that tonight I crossed the £3000 mark for sponsorship, and that's just phenomenal - in less than 3 weeks! Thank you to EVERYONE who has supported me so far, and the rest of you who are thinking about it, come on, you know it makes sense! I'd really love to reach my target before I kick this 365challenge off on Monday, but obviously that's out of my hands - it's over to you lot out there, so if you can, come on, make my day, week, month and year.

And be assured, I'll not simply stop when I hit that target, I plan to keep going over the year, and doing all I can to raise as much as I can. A lot of the extra effort will go into promoting the 365challenge idea far and wide, and getting others involved in taking their own challenges. Obviously, the more people I can encourage to raise money for CRUK, the greater the overall pot, and that can only be a "good thing". There is some interest, and I know that this will grow.

One person I spoke to today, Claire, is frightened of water. But she is planning to learn to swim as part of her challenge, and then, once she has, she's going to swim at least a mile a week for the rest of her 365challenge year. She reckoned that she'll take up to six months to learn to swim - I reckon she'll manage it sooner than that - but we've re-framed her 365challenge so that now she's planning to learn to swim and then swim the English Channel (22 miles) in her 365challenge year. How good does that sound - well worth supporting, eh? She told me that her grandmother died recently from cancer, and so did another relative, last year, I think, so when she saw my poster in the gym, she was inspired to take this on and now she's excited to be doing something in her grandmother's memory.

That's the kind of story that will make 365fchallenge the fund-raising success that I believe it can be.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Sand traps for CRUK

A friend I'd emailed about my 365challenge got in touch the other day. She loved the idea, but couldn't see herself taking it on - though she did become one of my 1%ers club!

Thing is, Sue's a golfer, and she was trying to think of a golfing angle for this fund-raising of mine, because she wants to support Cancer Research UK (CRUK) too. She mentioned how she'd recently been playing golf somewhere in Yorkshire and came across a bunker with a sign that informed people that if they landed in this particular bunker, they had to pay a forfeit when they returned to the clubhouse, and all monies collected would go to the Lady Captain's charity. I loved it! What a simple idea ... sure, some people will ignore the forfeit, but I know golfers - they are very charitable folk, and I'm sure that over the course of a year, those forfeits added up to a substantial amount.

So ... I called my brother, who is involved with a fairly large club in Ireland, and he's going to look into this as an idea that they could implement - and he immediately saw the sign working best on the bunkers (yes - plural) on the ninth green, RIGHT UNDER THE CLUBHOUSE TERRACE! Not an easy forfeit to avoid, eh?

And now I'm putting the idea out there to you, dear reader. Are you a golfer, or do you know someone in a club who could take the idea forward for you ... and help raise even more money for Cancer Research UK.

If you think it's something you could get involved with, please get in touch - leave a comment on this posting, with some contact details, and I'll give you some ideas about what you need to do next. Come on, it'll take a little effort, but could have a BIG outcome.

promoting 365challenge in the gym

I dropped into my gym the other day to speak to Carl, the gym manager. He's been excited about the idea since I first mentioned it to him a week ago, but now, as I had some small posters to give him to put up in the gym, and some business cards I'd had printed promoting 365challenge, he was totally sold. He started talking about getting the gym staff involved and running events in the club, and I was really fired up too.

When I saw him today, I'd had a t-shirt made up with the 365challenge logo and he was even more excited! He's been speaking to a lot of members, and says there are a lot of them who are thinking of doing the 365challenge too, so I should expect some emails soon. He's planning on taking it up himself - and is going to run across America with one of the other instructors - about 3000 miles! So, hopefully, this is going to work and people will be getting in touch soon so I'll get some 365challengers on board formally.

This idea might just take off ... watch this space.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

That's better!

Is it really a week since I last posted? I guess I've been busy, sorry.

The really good news is that the sponsorship has been moving ahead really well, and I'm already two thirds of the way to my total - and I haven't even started the challenge yet! I've had amazing support, and I know that there is more to come, so thank you to everyone who has dug deep so far, and to those of you meaning to get round to it, there's really no need to put it off, just log onto my Just Giving page and Bob's your uncle - LOL ;-).

The Cancer Research UK (CRUK) support person in this area, Liz, seems pretty pleased with how I've put things together, and is now looking to get me talking to their press officer to see if we can generate some interest in the 365challenge locally. She reckons that the papers will be interested in the human interest side of my story - what with me being a cancer sufferer in remission and the loss of my sister - but, while I'd like to promote 365challenge and CRUK, I'm a little wary of getting my mug into the papers. But ... it's a good cause, so maybe I could do it. Let's wait and see what the press people have to say.

The other aspect of this challenge is the challenge itself, of course. Last week, after my pathetic 20 length swim, I admit that I was a little concerned at my fitness. But since then, I've been into the gym several times and performed better. I've done a couple of my own version of the 1%ers when it comes to the cycling and the rowing - basically, I thought that if I try to make a point of knocking off at least 1% of the total distances whenever I use the bike or the rowing machine, that would be a good minimum for each visit and make the target very achievable. There will be some days I'll feel like doing more, so over time, I should see these challenges fall into place nicely.

And that's what I've been doing in training, and I'm very pleased with my efforts. I've been covering 16 KM (10 miles) on the bike in about 28 minutes, and 3.5 KM on the rowing machine 15 - 16 minutes, which I'm happy with at this point, but I really hope to see these times come down over the year. As for the swimming, I felt very good today doing a 40 length swim, with my arms only getting tired in the last 100 metres. I think I was inspired by watching the women's 10 KM open water swimming at the Olympics this morning - they were fantastic, arms stroking like metronomes. And what a finish! How hard must it be to lose by 2 seconds after 2 hours of flat-out swimming. Wonderful event ... but don't worry, I'll not be looking to take that on just yet!

Thursday, 14 August 2008

The Genie is out of the bottle ...

The Genie is well and truly out of the bottle now. I sent out a mass email today to quite a lot of people in my email address book, so there's no hiding any more ... I've got a hell of a busy year ahead, or I'll have some explaining to do!

Just a couple of days in, and I've already raised about a third of the target total - I've been completely overwhelmed by people's generosity, some of whom hardly know me, really. In fact, seeing as my nephew forwarded my email on to a group of his friends too, with a covering note explaining who I am (and quite how unfit I am - thanks, Peter), several of my sponsors DON'T know me at all, and live in a different country (my homeland, Ireland), but still want to support both me and this charity. It's very humbling.

And, just for info, it's quite interesting doing a mass emailing, especially when you've not been on top of your address book for a while. The number of "undeliverable email" and "address unknown" messages that I've had back would be enough for a good crowd at a local football match, but I guess at least it allows me to clear out the deadwood, so to speak. Some of them were addresses - and even names - that I didn't recognise, so now I have a streamlined list for the update emails that will inevitably follow over the coming months. You have been warned.

And you'd never believe how many people are on holidays! "Out of office" replies were fairly popular today too, but hey, I suppose it is August.

But the overall response continues to be very positive, so it was off to the gym again on the way home from work to continue my "preparation training" - it's actually a little bit worrying.

I was a bit knackered after 20 lengths in the pool today. As my goal will be at least 40 lengths per pool visit (that way I should knock off the channel swim in around 35 swims), I think I'll need a few more visits to get this swimming business down. I'm fairly confident that once I'm going regularly, I'll be able to increase the distances, because (time to let you in on a little secret), a couple of years ago, I did the channel swim for another charity, and by the end of about three months, I was doing 80 lengths quite comfortably. Now, considering that I was pretty much a non-swimmer prior to that, I was kind of pleased with myself about that. I had a couple of lessons before that challenge started and it really helped.

But since my six weeks of radiotherapy stopped at the turn of the year, the fact is I've been, shall we say, remiss when it came to exercising. I blame the consultant. All through my radiotherapy, I was going to the gym nearly every day, because I was feeling fine, but on the last treatment visit when I saw the consultant for a review, he commented that I was likely to feel tired for a little while, and suggested that maybe I should take it easy for a couple of weeks to allow myself to recover. That was January 2008 - and I took his advice so to heart that I didn't find my way back to the gym with any sort of frequency until about June, and even then it was only a couple of times a week. So the build up to the 365challenge is noticeable! But, I'm committed (some of my sponsors seem to think that I SHOULD be committed), and I am really up for this now.

I hope I can do all you supporters justice.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

starting to let people know ....

Today was the first day that I've 'properly' made my plans public on a wider scale. I've spoken to some friends about the challenge, and the feedback's been good, but today I sent out my first email to friends and family looking for their support.

It was a small group email, to try to get some early sponsorship onto my
Just Giving site, so that when I do a larger emailing later this week, when people visit the site, they're not put off by having to be the first to sponsor me and they get some idea of what is an average amount to donate.

I think this is always a bit of a problem for people, so I decided to help out by suggesting that people might like to donate 1% of my total goal - £36.50 - I explained that that equates to 70 pence a week for the year of the challenge. And that if they felt that they could support me to this extent, then I'd give them a name check on my
website - and today I created a page to do just that - ever the optimist!

Well ... it's certainly caught the imagination and the early support has been fantastic. Less than 12 hours in, and I've got 12 members of my new 1%ers club - everyone who has donated today, donated at least the 1%, so I've already hit over £450. I've been totally blown away by the response and lovely messages of support I've had so far. And I know now that it can only get better! I hope others aren't put off from may donating smaller amounts - 'cos every donation counts - but it's been a great start.

So the sponsorship is off the blocks good and proper - and I've still got 18 days to go before I start properly. Still got a lot of work to do both in the gym, to get fitter in time for the challenge, and elsewhere, to promote this idea more widely. There's still interest from the gym - and while the meeting with Cancer Research UK has been put off until next Monday, they are still keen to support me.

And I've heard thru the grapevine that a new friend is very keen on taking up the challenge too ... so Mark (or Becca, if you read this first), get in touch and let's get planning. The more the merrier, I say. I'd love to get at least 10 people taking the 365challenge for Cancer Research - I'll be over the moon, and together, we could blow my target of £3650 happily out of the water!

Come on, people, you know that you want to!

Monday, 11 August 2008

3 weeks to go ...

Well, it looks like I've got things more or less in place to start my 365challenge to raise money for Cancer Research ... I 'm not convinced that I'm as fit as I need to be for this, but I guess as I get going, I'll have to become fitter, just because I'll be exercising so much.

Instead of spending lots of hours in the gym building up fitness ahead of the start on September 1st like a clever person, I've been working on other things related to the 365challenge. For example, the web site is more or less there - click through here and let me know what you think. You'll have to click through the front page, which is a bit of a pain, but it was the only quick way I could remedy an address problem after I'd started building the site. I may manage a better workaround in time, but for now this is the primary way in! I've had a LOT of patient help from Paul at TST getting it this far - all out of the goodness of his heart, as he supports my efforts, which has been great. He's also brought on board Nick from Lemondrop Creative, who designed our logo for free - I love it, and hopefully it'll look good on T-shirts and things as I get this going more officially.

I've decided to set up this challenge in memory of my sister, Brenda Carr, who sadly lost her battle with cancer on July 7th 2008. Also, I had my own brush with a tumour in September 2007, but fortunately appear to have come out the other side okay. However, these two experiences have prompted me to step up and make an effort to support Cancer Research UK as they work to understand and overcome this horrible disease.

I really want to draw more people in to the idea of rasing money for charity over a full year long effort. I hope it will be for Cancer Research UK, but I'm not going to get precious about it - if there are people out there with other charity interests but who like the idea of spending 365 days on some sort of challenge that'll generate interest and funds for good causes, I say go for it.

I'm meeting with Liz from Cancer Research UK on Wednesday to discuss what support they can offer, and hopefully get some ideas about promoting the idea more generally. I think I'd be up for some press coverage if I could get it, though I am a little wary of that ... but I guess if it gets me support, I should take every opportunity that presents itself.

I need to start writing to or emailing people about what I'm up to, and inviting them to sponsor me and/or take part ...

Still so much to do, but I'm up for it and really want to give this my best shot.

Watch this space ...