This year, I am running the London marathon by accident. In 2021, I did it deliberately, with a charity place kindly given to me by the CGF. I raised a couple of thousand pounds, cleared the finish line in under four hours (hurrah), and ticked a box on my bucket list. Boom. No need to do that again.
Trouble is, they’re sneaky. If you apply to run the London Marathon and choose to donate your entry fee, they send you a rather snazzy running top if you don’t get a place. And given there are millions of applicants for around 50,000 places, you’re almost certain not to run. The 2023 ballot opening coincided with me deciding I could do with a new top for the winter months, so I entered, with the cast-iron certainty that I wouldn’t get a place, but I would get some lovely – and surprisingly good value – new exercise gear out of it.
Three weeks later, the email arrives: ‘You’re in!’. Whoops. That backfired.
My wife Jacqueline is, as ever, a fountain of support: ‘So you entered a marathon you’ve already done, that will mean you’re disappearing off to train every other day for months, leaving me with the four kids, at a time when we’re not only trying to move house, but also move city, without so much as consulting me, because you wanted a geeky jacket that you could have just, y’know, bought?’
The answer to this question, inescapably, is: yes. It sounds – as it always does when she says it – as though I haven’t been thinking rationally. For a moment I wonder whether the most gracious course of action would be to withdraw, but then a lightbulb pings on somewhere in the murk of my brain.
‘It’s for… it’s for the Child Growth Foundation.’. Checkmate. She wouldn’t argue with a children’s charity. What is she, some kind of monster? The argument is nipped in the bud, I get to spend a Sunday in April leaning into my middle-aged running habit, and maybe we’ll get some cash in the CGF coffers in the process. Everybody wins, with the possible exception of my wife.
Our family has been involved with the CGF for the last five years, since our son Ivo was diagnosed with Sotos Syndrome at the age of five. The foundation was a tremendous source of support and information for us when it came to navigating the confusing world of Ivo’s condition. That’s why I’m proud to have been able to use fundraising for the CGF as my excuse for indulging my mid-life crisis on several occasions over the last few years.
Towards the end of 2021, I was invited to join the board of trustees – which, I like to think, is the forty-something dad’s equivalent of an elite athlete being offered a Nike sponsorship deal. At first, I was a little anxious about accepting; I was under the impression that charity trustees were all hugely gifted, desperately clever pillars of society with a plethora of professional skills and a dedication to saving the world. Now, after a year in the role, I am pleased to report that this is not the case – and not just because I joined the team.
Joking aside, the CGF board is a fantastic bunch of people, from all walks of life, united by personal or professional experience of dealing with growth conditions in children. Any concerns I had about ‘being qualified’ to be a trustee were rapidly alleviated, as I realised the board had built a culture where all views were valid, everyone was listened to, and in which everyone was free to be themselves and make their contribution without fear of being judged. There is work to be done of course – this has been a hugely busy year for the CGF, with a lot of changes and new faces on the scene (mine included) – but it’s also been a lot of fun to be involved, and hugely rewarding to feel as though I’m making a difference, however small it might be.
And making that small difference is why I’m happy to be ‘annoying charity guy’ in my friends’ Facebook feeds yet again; why I’ll be pulling myself out of bed early on a weekend morning for the next few months to get the miles in; why I’ll be boring my family to death yakking on about marginal improvements to VO2 max and resting heart rate, and why, on the morning of Sunday 23 April, I’ll be stood on Blackheath with 50,000 other people, to start a race I’ve already run, for a cause I’ve already fundraised for – and I won’t even have that snazzy top to show for it.
You can sponsor Anthony at www.justgiving.com/anthonyleyton