‘We’re all priests’: Christian campaigner Matt Currey

Please don’t call me an evangelical. It’s become such a tainted term in America (where ‘white evangelicals’ overwhelmingly voted for current President) that Tony Campolo, Shane Claiborne and other church leaders are rebranding themselves Red Letter Christians. Many Bibles print what Jesus said in red letters, hence the name and intention to focus on his words.

In the UK, evangelical hasn’t been so synonymous with conservative politics. Back in 2013, when I first worked for Christian Aid and later Tearfund, I met Christians serious about evangelism (getting people into church and into heaven) alongside social justice and inclusion, not either/or. One of those friends I made is Matt Currey. His Twitter bio is the kind I’d usually mock and avoid (‘Husband, Parent, Son, Disciple’) but it reflects his sincerity towards a life of love, relationships and community.

Matt works for the campaigns team at Tearfund, helping Christians and churches to think different, live more simply and speak up for change, especially focused now on combatting climate change that risks reversing global development. For Matt, that change starts in his pocket: ‘I have a Fairphone, the world’s first ethical smartphone. I like how the makers looked at an everyday object and thought “how can this be done differently?” It’s a vision that says it doesn’t have to be done this way.’

His evangelical upbringing focused on Christianity as personal salvation. It was, as is often the way, a life-changing volunteer trip to Kenya in his early 20s that broadened out his faith ‘It opened my world view. Early in the trip I was sitting with my hosts, hearing their stories and how their life was different from mine. These were people who didn’t have access to water, education – what I took for granted and even resented sometimes.’

‘And yet they were on a pursuit for life and joy amidst challenge. It was very inspiring.’

You can see on Matt’s blog how he lives out his own pursuit for life and joy. On his birthday last year, Matt started a year-long celebration of being 40 in 40 ways. The project is broken up into 10 new experiences, 10 challenges, 10 journeys and 10 creations. Eight months in, he’s watched tennis at Wimbledon with his daughter, started a workplace music club, written an album and next month is hosting a day gathering on Soulfulness.

Matt in a team meeting during his fancy dress week
Matt in a team meeting during his fancy dress week

Friends and family have supported Matt by donating to his week-long dressing-up and giving advice. ‘I’d previously curated 40 nine-day journeys as a work project, but it became work-driven. 40 in 40 is an opportunity to do something significant and intentional, to bring more life and carve out an intentionality for things I’ve not had the confidence or time for before.’

‘An old lecturer told me: “Is this a driven thing or a life-giving thing? Be kind to yourself, be mundane.”’ For his bigger challenges, holding a fundraising gig for the Refugee Support Network back in November and now organising the Soulfulness day, there’s been ‘a joy a tension between the stress, the anticipation and the purpose of what I’m doing.’

Welcoming people and bringing them together is always close to Matt’s purpose or vocation (‘grace’ and ‘forgiveness’ are the other Christian buzzwords that come up in our chat). He’s been a Youth and Community worker, has a theology degree, works for a Christian charity and leads worship with his guitar at a West London church. It’s a template that often ultimately leads to one job. So do people expect him to become a Vicar? ‘If we genuinely believe we’re all priests and all have a vocation to put faith into practise, does priesthood always mean ordination [and becoming a Vicar]? There’s value in our everyday lives as priesthood.’

Matt performing at his first open mic night
Matt performing at his first open mic night

Of course his current job is putting the theology background to good use. Matt’s a member of one political party and knows his colleagues, who share the same Christian faith, are members and voters of all the rest. ‘It helps that you unpick and deconstruct your faith at theology college. This makes me want to seek and understand, not to rush into justice and judgement’.

Matt admits he shies away from conflict, but I’m always inspired by his eternally optimistic activism that says the world must be different and the church has to put itself at the forefront of that change. He’s proudly evangelical about social justice as much as salvation: ‘I’m not afraid to challenge and expose where faith is not engaging with the community…. There’s a fullness of the Gospel in our relationship with creation, God and others.’

You can read more about Matt’s 40 celebrations on his blog and follow him @MattCurrey. At the end of March, he’s taking part in the Tearfund Mean Bean Challenge.

Ian Sanders

Ian Sanders: ‘There is passion and power in our stories’

I asked Ian whose story inspires him. He looks and thinks, with the kind of excited energy I’m usually still conserving on the sofa at this time on a Friday morning.

‘Do you know what I’m going to say?’ he asks with a knowing look. I really don’t. Perhaps his Dad? The late grandfather we share as cousins? The rather handsome duo who run Barlow and Fields, the coffee shop we’re in?

‘The story that really fires me up is my own story. It’s a story of growth, survival, renewal. Our stories define us and learning from my own story has given me tremendous strength.’ Ian acknowledges at first it might sound a narcissistic response, but it’s one that’s heartfelt. He has something to share and a story I wanted to know more about.

Ian Sanders spent his early career working in broadcast media, quickly rising from a teenage volunteer at BBC Essex to working in music television and managing a radio studio. In 2000, he became a freelancer years before wi-fi and meet-ups made it normal and less isolating. He’s written books about the transition, but when we chatted in October he told me a different story: a tale of stress, depression and a breakdown that prompted this huge change in his working life.

‘At the end of 1990s I had – on the face of it – made it. I was managing director of a media company, I was out for lunch and dinner in Soho all the time, I was earning good money, I was living the dream!’, he says, describing a world where they’d all be in the Marylebone office at 11.30pm on a Friday, drinking M&S wine while playing Beat the Intro. But as more and more work built up on his desk, the culture at work became toxic where ‘no-one was looking after Ian’, he says conscious of the lump in his throat. He was meeting people like Tony Blair, Take That and the other pop stars who came through the radio studio, but cracks were starting to show.

Back home Ian was suffering from months and months of sleepless nights, as London Underground rebuilt the tube station platform next to his bedroom wall. On top of his workplace stress, he had major sleep disruption from the nocturnal construction works. ‘I didn’t have a hard hat on’, he says, suggesting that pun might be too corny to use.

Ian hit breaking point. When his GP suggested a course of antidepressants, he decided instead to change his life and quit his job, although continued working for the company as a consultant. It adds a fuller truth to his first book Leap!, published in 2007, that presented freelancing as an exciting, proactive escape from a corporate world. Today he’s comfortable sharing the real reason. Ian’s job had been making him ill – that’s why he quit to go freelance. ‘Sometimes it takes time. I don’t want to pin it all on age. In my 20s I had my success, in my 30s my struggles and in my 40s the dots have joined together.’

Now his own job description is just three words: storyteller, explorer and pathfinder. He’s spoken at the Do Lectures, takes clients on fuel safaris around Soho to help their career and leads storytelling workshops at the BBC. Recently he found those threads bound together in his attic, more specifically the 1980s inter-railing scrapbook he made as a student.

‘This scrapbook is the articulation of me, and my creative streak. I look back at this photo of me camping in Venice, and have no memory of seeing it before. And the blister I had removed in Munich, there’s a funny story there’. Alongside the physical pathfinding and fun of growing up in the 80s was some darkness; starting university on antidepressants, doing too much, struggling to cope with the effects of his Mum’s poor health. ‘Stories make you who you are. We share them and shine a light on the outside world. We’re defined by them, the shadows and shade as well as the light.’  Just then, the shop’s awning comes down and shades over our table, giving me another corny pun to use.

Today Ian is rooted in his stories, enjoying life with his wife and two sons in our beautiful hometown Leigh-on-Sea, where he helped launch community newspaper Trawler. ‘A sense of place is really important in my life, to find me.’ That’s why he chose Barlow and Fields to meet in, a coffee shop ‘a bit like Cheers’, instead of the 20 other cafés he walked past to get here. Without trying, he proves it is the coffee shop where everyone knows your name. He says hello to Kevin, recommends an iPlayer show to the owner and instantly reacts when a child falls off the bench, eager to help.

Ian with his inter-railing scrapbook
Ian with his inter-railing scrapbook

There’s two ideas our chat left me with to be rooted in myself. Ian keeps a ‘Good Times’ list in his notebook, and reads it out: the feeling he gets after going for a run, listening to Morrissey, going to the beach, making his wife laugh. The Good Times list reminds him that success isn’t financial or about status but living the life you want to live. ‘One year I came home from my accountants, it had been a disappointing year commercially. But then my wife reminded me, ‘you said it was one of the best years of your life!’ I‘ve come to learn that sometimes it’s about celebrating those little things in life that give you so much pleasure.’

And in his Do Lecture, Ian suggested ‘ask your eight year old you for advice.’ I’m currently looking for a new job, but I’m not sure the eight year old me who wanted to be a vet and run a sweet shop on Sundays would be much help for career advice. ‘That’s just a number,’ Ian reassures me. ‘Ask your eight year old self. Ask your eighteen year old self,’ as he proved with his scrapbook. Very often our passions and desires are there in our childhood ready to uncover and reinstall. For Ian, that was moving away from media management back to being creative every working day. It’s refreshing to realise it doesn’t always have to be our older, presumed wiser-selves wistfully talking to our past. Younger-selves are great at advice too.

As we leave and I take a photo, Ian’s innate creative eye is wide open. ‘Where do you want me, by the blue door? Good job it’s a day I’m feeling happy!’ And I remember it’s World Smile Day which, like the blister in Munich, is one story we’ll have to share another day.

You can read Ian’s blog posts on his website and Medium and follow him on Twitter @IanSanders.

Travels of Adam

Travels of Adam: ‘When I go somewhere new, I get that good feeling’

It starts like the motivational blockbuster film we’ve all dreamt of living, at least once. After a weekend in Iceland, Adam Groffman packed in his job and packed his rucksack for a round-the-world trip. @TravelsOfAdam was born and seven years on has now grown into 30k followers and a Top 10 travel blog.

Travels of Adam

Although Adam didn’t start travelling until two college semesters abroad, the curiosity and excitement of it was always there in his Dallas childhood. ‘My Dad worked for an airline and was an amateur photographer. There was always his photos from Afghanistan or the Taj Mahal around the kitchen. He taught me about the power of travel. You learn a new culture, a new environment. You learn something about yourself and teach someone about yourself.’

So it’s easy to see why, after a weekend in Iceland, Adam felt his ‘dream job’ as a graphic designer in the quaint city of Boston was no longer his dream. ‘I went back to work on Tuesday and thought why aren’t I travelling? I love travelling! I asked if I could transfer to an international office and spent nine months going through the process, but this was 2009 and the recession meant didn’t happen.’

‘I couldn’t wait any longer so I made the plan to quit and travel on my own. I couldn’t rely on anyone else so I had to do it myself.’ With some good savings, a Lonely Planet gap year book and plans ‘that of course I didn’t use any of’, Adam turned away from the American dream of work, family and retirement. ‘I liked having the stable job and the retirement savings so it required a bit of change in my mind-set. It was scary at first but I intentionally eased myself into it, starting in Spain where I’d been before’.

‘I was alone but that’s the thing about travel. You force yourself into these situations and you have to solve it. Then you come away with these great stories and experiences.’ Anyone who gives just a casual glance to his Twitter feed enjoys those experiences by proxy. Last week his adventures included a drag brunch and marching bagpipers in Virginia.

It’s through this social media sharing that Adam’s built his ‘queer hipster’ brand to become a freelance blogger and keep funding his trips. ‘I started the blog almost out of guilt, to show I was doing something while I was away and avoid a gap in my CV.’ 18 months after leaving Boston, he ran out of money in Vietnam and went to end his trip backpacking in Europe. He soon realised Berlin should become his base. ‘I’d met these cool people there. And thought maybe I can stay here. I had an internship job offer, a long term apartment and friends. Berlin has this vibe and this energy, it made me feel like something was possible. Things just fell into place.’

Of course that doesn’t make the freelancing life is perfect. Adam is refreshingly sincere and vulnerable when he tweets about his lonely days, frustrations at chasing up invoices and lessons learnt from Grindr. He’s still stumbling around social media like the rest of us. ‘Twitter has been one of my favourite things ever. The blog has the aspect of meeting and talking with other people who love travelling. But now it’s also become my job and there’s a pressure to make a living with it, sometimes I don’t enjoy it as much as I used to. Sometimes it feels like work.’

But he isn’t about to lose the joy of escaping anytime soon. ‘When I go somewhere new, I get that good feeling, being able to experience a new place, people and culture. To really discover it you have to disconnect and embrace the newness.’

Travels of Adam

As our chat comes to an end, I realise Adam’s smile and coyness is infectious even on a Skype call from his Berlin apartment, and dream up everything I’d show him around London when he visits again next year. ‘I love London because it’s such a big city, there’s so many things going on it’s impossible to see everything. England is a really diverse place and I haven’t seen a lot. ‘

For now, he’s spending the winter exploring more of America, which started with a trip back home for Thanksgiving. ‘Giving myself a chance to disconnect is helpful. Sometimes it’s a matter of taking a step back, and evaluating where I am and I feel special again.’

‘I feel really silly that this is my life! I’m glad I’m still alive and it works.’

You can follow Adam on his blog and Twitter


Josh Batch: ‘It’s fast, skilled and violent’

Josh Batch has been a professional ice hockey player with Cardiff Devils since 2011. After a decade in a temporary tent, this is the Devil’s first season in Cardiff Bay’s new Ice Arena Wales. I asked Josh a bit more about the sport and what inspires him.

Photo: Cardiff Devils

How did you become a pro ice hockey player?

It all started when I was 8 and saw the Mighty Ducks film! Growing up it was the only sport I really loved, but I never believed it would be my job until I signed my first professional contract when I was 19.

Describe the game in three word.

Fast, skilled, and violent.

Why should UK sports fans go watch an American game?

It’s the most watched indoor sport in the UK. We have some of the most passionate fans you will find. It’s a game that anyone can enjoy as it has speed, skill, and occasionally fights!

How have you progressed during your six seasons with the Cardiff devils?

I’ve came on leaps and bounds since I’ve been here, particularly in the past three years as I’ve settled as a defenceman, when before that I switched back and forth from forward and defence.

This year the Devils moved from the ‘Big Blue Tent’ to the new Ice Arena Wales. What difference has it made to the team?

We have to be a lot faster as we now play our home games on a bigger ice pad. It’s also boosted our morale as we get to work in a nice brand new ice rink every day instead of a battered tent that was almost falling down!

Is ice hockey a masculine sport? I definitely flinched a lot when I saw a match early this year!

It’s definitely masculine! Any sport with body contact will naturally produce a lot of aggression and masculinity. There’s also a big culture of playing down injuries and not appearing hurt, which is rooted in masculinity and not showing weakness.

How do you support each other as team?

Throughout the game we verbally encourage each other and stick up for one another on the ice if a teammate is being taken advantage of.

You’re also studying a degree in Economics at Cardiff Met Uni. How do you fit that in with ice hockey?

I have to miss some lectures as they conflict with our training times but the lecturers are very understanding and always willing to help out if I need it.

Photo: Twitter/Josh Batch
Photo: Twitter/Josh Batch

What keeps you grounded after a match, whatever the result?

Usually the fact that I have to go to uni the next morning! I’m studying Economics at Cardiff Met. But in all seriousness, one win doesn’t mean a lot. We’re competing for the league trophy so every single game matters. Until we win the league, we won’t be fully satisfied.

Is there a sense of responsibility towards your fans?

Yes, after being here so long I really have a sense of how much the Devils and our success means to them. All we can do is give 100% every game. If we do that then we know the fans will be behind us completely.

What’s the best moment of your career so far?

There’s two! Winning the Challenge Cup in 2015 and representing Great Britain.

What do you do during off season?

Not too much outside of the training to be honest! But I will usually meet up with friends at least once a week and have a few drinks as it’s not something I get to do very often during the season whilst juggling uni and hockey.

What should people do when they’re visiting Cardiff?

Check out the Bay, there’s a few great restaurants and the views over to Penarth are great. And of course come to a Devils game!

Who inspires you?

I don’t really have a role model in hockey any more as I don’t really watch hockey outside of our league and competition! As I get older I’m mainly inspired to help people, something that I’m trying to figure out how best to do given my current position.

This weekend, Josh and his Cardiff Devils teammates are going to ‘Brave the Shave’ for Macmillan Cancer. You can sponsor Joshua here.

Follow @JoshBatch41 and @CardiffDevils on Twitter.


‘Everyone has an amazing future ahead of them’: Scott McGlynn


Scott McGlynn is a celebrity blogger from South Wales. In the short
memoir, Out, he writes about growing up and learning to celebrate his
identity and sexuality. It’s a story that will resonate with anyone who’s
experienced bullying, teasing or self-doubt.One
small part of Scott’s story is almost identical to mine. I
too looked up ‘gay’ in the dictionary after hearing it as a
slur against me on the school playground. Except the dictionary I
used was quite an old one, and defined gay as being happy. What a beautifully
poetic truth that’s turned out to be.

I asked Scott more about the book and the message he hopes people will take
from it.

Why did you want to write your book?

I always enjoyed writing and love blogging on my own
site. Someone suggested I write a book and I knew it was the perfect
time to help others going through coming out and getting bullied.

How does your book differ from others about including coming

Everyone has a different story to share. Everyone is different. Mine is a story
anyone can relate to for being bullied, whether it’s for being gay, hair
colour, size.

What’s your top tip for anyone inspired to write their story?

If you’re writing a book about your life be honest and go into
detail. People say ‘it must be hard to write about what happened
to you for the world to see’. It was emotional bringing up memories from the
past, but I knew it would help and support others.

In your book, you say you didn’t report school bullies as that would
only give them more power. Do you think action on bullying in schools
is better now?

I hope so! A lot of young people get cyberbullied now through
social media, which wasn’t part of the problem back in my day. It’s upsetting
to me that people sit behind a computer just making comments about other

What impact do you hope the book will have?
I want to let people know if you’re getting bullied or you’re going to come
out, everything will be ok! Everyone has an amazing future ahead of
them. You have an amazing future. Don’t allow people put you

The book ends with your engagement. Congratulations!
How is your future looking?

Thank you! My finance and I are slowly planning our wedding and have
the same ideas for it which is great! We’ll be getting married very soon. Until
then, I’m busy touring and talking about the book.

Out is available to download and buy now from Amazon. You can follow Scott on Twitter @ScottyMcGlynn.


Looking for another great book to read? Check out my suggestions from ‘My Gay Bookshelf‘.



Will Matt be King of the Peaks?

Later this month, Matt King from Essex will be taking on the
Three Peaks Challenge. It’s a race against the clock to climb Ben Nevis in
Scotland, Helvellyn in England and Snowden in Wales all in 24 hours. I found out more about Matt’s motivation for such a big challenge and how he’s been preparing.

Why are you doing the
Three Peaks Challenge?
Giving to charity is
a big deal. I don’t think enough of us realise how good we’ve got I, so I’m
climbing the Three Peaks to support The Sailors’ Society. It’s going to be a life changing challenge. I wanted to
push myself to change my lifestyle and some bad habits I have.

Who are you climbing
the peaks with?

My colleagues Ellis
and Lauren are also taking part and will be key to me actually making it
through the day. We’ll probably want to throw each other off of the mountains
at some point, but their support is going to be essential. Right now, the
encouragement and generousity of my friends and family is also the only thing
keeping me sane.

Have you been
preparing for the hike?
Yes, but probably not
as much as I should have been! We’ve stepped up training over the last few
weeks, walking up and down the famous Leigh cliff steps during our lunch break
and going on longer walks. I’ve also cut down my smoking which has been tough
for me. My goal is to quit before the climb.
What will be the
highs and lows of the day?
The muscle pain and
fatigue is going to be the worst thing. Three mountains in 24 hours is a
stretch for a hiker, let alone me who’s never hiked a mole hill. But I can’t
wait to get to the top of each mountain and feel an inevitable sense of
achievement. Descending Helvellyn as the sun rises will be a moment I’ll never
to forget.
Which peak will be
your favourite to climb?
Ben Nevis will the
most fun, because it’s the first and we’ve got a strategy in place to give
ourselves a strong start. It’s a race at the end of the day! Helvellyn will be
amazing because we’re doing it in the dark and Snowdon to finish will probably
be the hardest, but most rewarding. Each have their pros and cons.

Lauren, Matt and Ellis

Why are you supporting The Sailors’ Society?
The Sailor’s Society help seafarers
across the globe, by providing financial, spiritual or physical aid. The money
we raise will help communities in the Philippines who are still recovering from Typhoon Haiyan that hit the islands in 2013. They’re building homes, fishing boats
and medical so the islands are better prepared for any future disasters.
Spinnaker Global where I work is a recruitment
for firm for the seafaring industry and it’s great to support a cause so close
to our work. We’ve had small fundraisers like bake sales and Woolley Hat Day in
the office, to bigger events like abseiling down the Broadgate Tower last year. But the Three Peaks is definitely our biggest challenge so
It’s definitely a
very physical challenge. Have you always been an active person?
Yes, but what I do has changed over time. In primary school I was playing
football and horse riding, then I was sprinting and long jumping at secondary
school. I kind of lost playing sport when I was at uni in Brighton but was still
walking everywhere. Now I’m living back in Essex and go to the gym, doing plyometrictraining, spin classes and swimming. It just makes me feel better about myself, physically and mentally.

What challenge might
you do next?
I’d like to do a
marathon, but I hate jogging so that might not be for me! If I enjoy the Three
Peaks, another hike outside of the UK could be really interesting.
What’s your top tip
for a gym novice?
Just know that
everyone else is there for the same reason you are. Everyone is looking to
improve an aspect of themselves, whether it’s cardiovascular fitness or losing
weight. I still have to tell myself that people aren’t watching me work out and
judging me for not being able to lift as much or run as long as them. The initial
fear of judgement worries people, but everyone is there to improve.
Ellis and Lauren will be taking on the Three Peaks on Friday 17th June. You can
sponsor them as they raise £5500 for The Sailors’ Society on their JustGiving

The Facts of My Life: Bongo Ben and CJ Sax

This weekend, We Are Fstvl returns to Upminster with 50,000 dance music fans enjoying headliners Fatboy Slim and Steve Angello. LoveJuice will be there too with their usual mix of international DJs and live musicians, creating what you might call an ‘augmented club music 3D’ sound.
I caught up with LoveJuice regulars Bongo Ben and CJ Sax who finished their own UK club tour last month. They’ve perform everywhere from their hometowns in Essex and the London Olympics to Ibiza and Dubai. Here’s the facts of their lives.
Bongo Ben
My bongos bring so much more than just a sound. They keep me grounded and focussed on my goals. Without them I wouldn’t be able to perform and do everything else that comes with it.
When I first got into percussion I had no music background or experience.  I was a small time promoter, saw a percussionist playing in a local club and straight away loved the sound I heard. A week later I bought a pair of cheap bongos and started practising. A drummer friend of mine gave me a few pointers to get started and also my first booking in early 2010.
You’re only going to get where you want through sacrifices and compromises. I was in a boring, poorly paid 9 to 5 job for a bank but I settled for it to work in the club industry at weekends. I was playing for no fee in order to get my name out there. Every musician has to make sacrifices and compromises throughout their career. You just have to weigh up whether the end result will be worthwhile.

My job is to lay down my creativity to compliment the DJ and bring that extra energy. It’s unique as nearly every party is different, with different genres. You play off the DJ and the crowd’s atmosphere. There’s not many jobs you can define like that.

I most admire percussionists Shovell and Pav. I’ve always been a fan of M people, which Shovell was a part of. Saxophonist Lovely Laura is also fantastic, for her humbleness and professionalism as much as her music.

My parents are my role models. They’re both very different. I’ve tried to take each of their strongest attributes and use them for myself in work and everyday life. The patience and support of my Mum and Dad, my fiancé and everyone else around me has let me make the most of each opportunity.
CJ Sax is the younger brother I never had. We bicker, banter and embarrass each other but when it comes to a gig we will bounce off each other and combine our sets to make the best atmosphere possible. It’s not about knowing when or how to play during a set, it’s about knowing when not to play.
Be humble, be kind and associate yourself with people from all walks of life. Appreciate those that are different from you as you will always learn something.
The harder you work, the luckier you will get.
Follow Ben on Twitter and Facebook

CJ Sax
‘Do better than yesterday, everyday’. It’s not all pool parties and international flights. I was practising for three hours a day after school for my grade 8 saxophone exam. Working hard at my trade is still essential now.
Keep active and keep busy. The more productive you are in the day, the less time you have to worry about stress and other problems. I play football to stay fit and see my friends. Some people think my weekend schedule is too busy to do that as well as performing but I catch up on my sleep during the week.
My role model is Spurs legend Ledley King. He had career-preventing injuries and still managed to play top-flight football every week without training.
I ran the London Marathon for my Dad, who has Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Our relationship has inspired me to live my life as best I can, take the opportunities I’m given, always be grateful and not stress over life’s small problems.
The health and happiness of the ones you love is all that matters. Trust in the path God has given you. Everything has a purpose and grows you as a character. It’s not always easy to see, but will be clear in the long run.
Do a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.

Follow CJ on Twitter and Facebook

How did the Marathon Men do?

You might have read my interviews last week with Edd, Tony, Scott ahead of the London Marathon. On Sunday, I was cheering them and another 38,000 runners on their way from Tower Bridge. Here’s how they got on.

Rev Edd completed the marathon in 5:02:32 (5 hours, 2 minutes and 32 seconds). So far he’s raised £3301.20 for Christian Aid.

‘I had a tough run with food poisoning but I feel great to have done it! A big thanks goes to my wife, who gave me the strength to go on.’

Tony with his brother and Mum

Tony finished in 4:14:36 and raised £2006.20 for the British Heart Foundation. He’ll be running the Hackney Half Marathon in just two weeks time.

‘I set out at a relatively comfortable pace, tucking in behind the 4h15 pacemaker and ended up following him the entire way round! I’m so chuffed to have completed my first marathon and even happier to have smashed my fundraising target. As for my plans going forward, I’ll definitely be entering more marathons in the future!’

Scott finished in 4:51:16. He’s raised £720 so far for Havens Hospice, which will doubled by a donation from his employer.

‘I’m just relived it’s done! It was a great experience and the crowd were amazing. I’m glad I completed my second marathon and beat my time from last year!’

Ben with his sister Millie

Ben ran the marathon in 5:21:49. He and teammates have raised around £10000 for Breast Cancer Now by running the marathon. Over the last fives years, they’ve now raised almost £65,000.

‘I’m still in shock that I actually managed to get round, and I’m definitely feeling it now! But the  reaching the end was one of the best feelings ever. It was emotional. I crossed the line crying my eyes out!

I don’t think I could’ve done it without the support of my friends and family, and the whole crowd along the way. The event really wouldn’t be the same without them. I’m really chuffed that we’ve raised so much money. It’s only right for me to carry on, do more and raise more.

To anyone out there considering a marathon: do it. It was hands down the most rewarding experience of my life.’


Marathon Men: Ben

Ben, a student in Brighton, is far more comfortable on the rugby pitch than the running track. But then love – and loss – opens our eyes to new challenges and opportunities. 
Ben training with his eldest sister Millie
This is your first time running a marathon. What’s made you sign up?
I made a promise to myself after my crazy family first started running marathons for charity that I would run my own one when I turned 21. It is so far out of my league that I am completely and utterly terrified but at the same time I don’t think I’ve felt this excited about something for a long long time.

Who are you running for?
I’ll be running for Breast Cancer Now. Breast cancer is what took both my beautiful Mum and her Mum away from us. My family have raised over £55,000 so far during the last five years and anything I can do to add to that I’ll be proud of.

How have you enjoyed training?
I definitely feel like my training has been easier because I’ve done it alongside family members who’ve run several marathons between them. I’ve been able to somewhat plan my training a bit better and running with family and friends definitely makes it more enjoyable.  Running with someone is so much easier than running on your own, even if you run in complete and utter silence. The support of having someone there keeping you going or vice-versa really can make a difference.

How does running make you feel?
I’ll be honest, I’m not a natural runner, you only need to look at me to see that! However, I have actually enjoyed the training for this marathon. At times it felt like my body was going to collapse I doubted myself thinking ‘what have I got myself into?’. But the sense of achievement when you finally crawl home and realise that you’ve just covered 18 miles or so really does make it worth it.

What are you looking forward to about the day itself?
It’ll be a good feeling when I meet the rest of my family across the finish line. I know I’ll probably be a bawling baby shortly after because the best feeling will be the sense of accomplishment.

Do you enjoy running by yourself?
Running can be great if you’ve got a lot on your mind. It can really clear your head and help you if you’ve got difficult decisions to make. I used to run with music however my step-dad told me he finds listening to music a crutch of sorts. You’d find yourself keeping in pace with whatever the beat of the music was however that’s not necessarily the right thing for your body.

Do you need to make sacrifices to train for a marathon?
It actually surprised me how much of a commitment running is, you really do need to allocate time for it. My uncle would be up and running at 4am because he literally wouldn’t have time if not then. I’ve still managed to maintain a social life whilst I’ve been training. The only thing that’s really been a sacrifice is I haven’t played rugby since Christmas because I didn’t want to risk an injury.

What’s your top tip for a new runner?
Make sure you invest in a pair of proper running trainers or you’ll only be hurting yourself. Don’t worry about distance or time when you begin training, it’ll all come together in time anyway. I’ll try to keep running after the marathon for general fitness I think, next year is going to be my last at uni so I’d like that particular season to be my best yet.

How have your family and friends supported you so far?
My family have always been supportive of one another in everything we do and I know my sisters are always there if I ever need a phone call. The best way people can support me and rest of my family running the marathon is to donate! Leave a nice message too, my plan is to read all of the sponsors the night before the marathon for a bit more of a push to get round.

The loss you live with and the sad deaths of your Mum and Dad is tragic. How has it shaped your outlook on life?
I’ve had some really really low points, losing my mum was horrible but losing my dad very nearly broke me. I wasn’t myself for a long time and it took me a while to get back to who I am. I’m not one to think ‘everything happens for a reason’. I don’t want to think that way. No matter what, you have to make the best of any situation.

I’m constantly questioning whether or not they would be proud of me and the only way I can convince myself is to constantly push myself to do better. I wouldn’t call myself a religious person but I know that my Mum and Dad will be cheering me on during the Marathon somewhere.

Ben and his family are running for Breast Cancer Now, who fund research into prevention, early detection and effective treatment of breast cancer. You can sponsor them on their Virgin Money Giving page or leave a good luck message in the comments below.


Marathon Men: Scott

The depth of the crowd running the London Marathon this Sunday will be matched by a depth of motives. Maybe they’re taking part for the love of running, for a new challenge or to raise money for a favourite charity. Scott, a Corporate Banker from Benfleet in Essex, is running for all three reasons.
Scott with his medal from last year’s London Marathon

This is your second year running the London Marathon. What’s brought you back?

I enjoyed the challenge of running it last year and now I want to beat my personal best this time round.

What’s been your highs and lows of training?
It’s good to relieve stress after a long day at work. Running allows me to gather my thoughts and reflect on things. Getting injuries and illness can be demoralising after training hard but you need to stay positive and work on recovering as soon as possible.

How much of a commitment is it to train alongside a busy work life?
It is difficult to get yourself up for training but you need to stay focused on the end goal. It becomes a challenge when you have had a long day at work but you need to force yourself out there!

Who are you running for this year?
I am running for Havens Hospices, which is very close to my heart as my late Godmother passed away comfortably because of their amazing support.

What other running/sport achievements do you want to fulfil?
I would like to do a marathon in another country. Maybe NYC will be next!

How have your family and friends supported you so far, and what’s the best way people can support you?
Family and friends can provide support by encouraging you to train but ultimately you need to stay focused on the end-goal yourself.

Scott is running for Havens Hospices. They are ‘making every day count’ for the adults and children with life-limiting illnesses and their families. Like many in South Essex, my family have been helped by Havens before. You can sponsor Scott on his JustGiving page or leave a good luck message for him in the comments below.