Hospitality Action is our industry charity and does fantastic work helping people across the industry. Raising money for the charity has turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made, as my fundraising journey has led me to try out activities I now love. I’ve now raised over £10,000 for Hospitality Action (HA). Doing so has enriched my life as well as supporting those in our industry who are not so fortunate. Here’s my story.
My involvement with HA began when the legendary and much-missed Peter Hazzard invited me to join the charity’s London board, when it launched, over a decade ago.
I had been in the hospitality industry for 14 years by then and had worked with various industry associations. But what appealed to me about HA was that it allowed me to give something back to an industry that had been kind to me through my career, providing me and my family with a good life style.
In 2010, Peter asked if I wanted to run the Great British London 10k Run in aid of HA.
At the time I played badminton once a week and was a gym-member at Virgin Active, doing various classes through the week.
“No problem”, I said, “but 10k is too easy – I’ll do it with a 10kg jacket on, to try and raise even more sponsorship”.
I ordered my 10kg jacket. When it arrived, I went straight to the gym and jumped on the treadmill. Immediately, the realisation hit me like a hammer blow: I was in no shape to run 10k without the jacket, let alone with it.
I had to start from scratch. Day by day, month by month, I added more and more weight while I trained. By the time of the race in July 2011, I had lost nearly two stones in weight. I finished the 10k in 46 minutes with the 10kg jacket on and raised over £1000 for Hospitality Action in the process. From then on, I was hooked – finding new sporting challenges to help raise money for HA became my mission.
I repeated the London 10k in 2012 and raised another £1000. However, it was tougher finding sponsors this time, so I knew the next year I had to try something a bit different.
The following year I decided to try four big races, the Portsmouth Half Marathon, the Viva Extreme 9-mile assault course, the Tough Mudder 12-mile extreme assault course and The Great British 10K run.
These were all gruelling, especially my first half marathon in Portsmouth, half of which is run on the beach. At one point, my trainer stuck deep in mud on the beach and came off my foot. I went flying and smacked my face on the rocks. After a quick clean-up I got back on it and finished in a reasonable 1hr 41mins. This set of races raised another £1000 for Hospitality Action.
In 2014, I completed six big races and went for a Guinness world record. The highlight of the races was completing one of the world’s toughest Tough Mudders, 2000 feet up in the mountains of Colorado, Snowmass in Aspen. The World record was an abdominal hover plank with 100lbs on my back (46kg) in a rucksack. I trained for six months for this. I failed my first attempt, which was frustrating as many people came to support me and I had beaten the record in practice the week before. However, a month later, I smashed the record, adding another 25 seconds to record 3mins 20 seconds. To this day this is one of my greatest sporting achievements. I also managed to raise £1100 for HA.
The following year, 2015, I wanted to compete in an epic race that would raise more money than before and discovered the third toughest marathon on planet Earth: The Great Wall Marathon in Beijing, China. Despite running in 90-degree heat and climbing over 5000 steep steps, I conquered the challenge in 5hrs 20mins non-stop and raised over £3000 in the process. When you consider that the winner completed it in 3hrs 45mins and he was a professional marathon runner, you get a sense of how difficult the race is – the London Marathon takes just over two hours.
For this challenge, I secured sponsorship from twelve hospitality companies in return for logos on my running vest. This was a much quicker and easier way of raising funds. I charged £250 per logo. In return, I gave sponsors as much social media coverage as possible, to ensure they felt they got value from the sponsorship.
My most recent charity event was one of my toughest. It meant learning a totally new brutal sport called Crossfit. It’s one of the world’s fastest growing sports and is best described as a decathlon on heat. Over 250,000 people around the world take part in the Crossfit Open every year and there are 10,000 people in my category, the Masters 50-55 years old division.
It’s a mixture of Olympic weight lifting, gymnastics including handstand walking and muscle-ups, cycling, rowing, running and swimming. I had to learn lots of different complex skills to enable me to compete at a high level. To prepare, I followed an individually-coached training programme seven days a week for three years.
I entered the European Masters Throwdown one of the leading Crossfit competitions in Europe held in Budapest, Hungary. I managed to get industry sponsors on my training top from the likes of Hilton Hotels, Hotelympia, Beacon, Pelican, Frasershot and many other companies in the Hospitality Industry. I qualified for the finals, finished in 11th place in Europe overall – and raised £3150 for HA.
My story shows that you can have fun, improve your health, enrich your life and do good, if you decide to support HA. If you are considering a challenge or thinking about raising money for this great charity, my message would be: do it! The rewards will follow in so many ways.