Saturday, 21 May 2016

Aspire to Inspire. What can be gained from the Mark Vaz Farce.

It seems of late the media storm around Mark Vaz has yet to finish running its course (pun intended.) Sadly Mark appears to have been very quiet on the subject. Aside from a few comments thrown into the abyss, that is social media. It appears he has no substantive comment to make. For reasons commented on in depth in my blog titled “Sex, lies and video tape: do the ends justify the means?” I think this is a sad error of judgement on Mark’s part. Given his audacious claims i perhaps should not be surprised at this further error in judgement.

Many people have questioned whether perhaps there are mental health issues contributing to this bizarre tale, whether it is a man who just got carried away or in some quarters whether he is just a bit of an arse. I don’t propose to offer a comment on that, but what i do find sad is that the charity suffers. They don’t suffer in status, after all anyone can set up a charity page and its not for the charity to check the legitimacy of the challenges the creator is proposing. Where they suffer in this case is that had Mark come forward with the evidence of his run then surely media coverage would be through the roof and no doubt in turn the charitable donations. I think had he come forward and apologised, but explained his reasoning then his donations may still have gone up. Despite some of the audacious counter claims of trolling and abuse, i believe that people are inherently good and would have paid credit to Mark's belated honesty. I also believe even if it impacted on donations, exposing his lies was the appropriate action to take.

This story has been “newsworthy” amongst the running community and by virtue of the definition of “newsworthy” it must be of sufficient interest to the public. Several years ago i completed a dissertation on the media and this very term. The research showed that generally “newsworthy” is also things that are out of the norm. Sadly in most cases this means the newspapers covering vast arrays of negative and often catastrophic incidents. The shock factor of such incidents generating a high profile response. The presentation of them in the press then only serves to perpetuate the fear or moral panic that such issues are on the rise and we should all fear for our lives. Often the reverse is actually true. I am not suggesting that we should all fear for our lives because of Mark Vaz, but we should not perceive his behaviour as common place. The day we as a society accepts actions like that of Mark Vaz as the norm would be the end of a society i would want any part of. As i have previously commented though when people inspire through lies and shortcuts the negative impact on those inspired can be great. This is why such behaviours should be discouraged. Knowing that Mark had the audacity, just prior to his 'run', to see a child and family involved with Make-A-Wish makes my blood boil. Invariably the parents will likely have followed his adventure and have been hoping to tell their son all about how he finished. I hope she didn’t have to explain to her son the reality. When we invest in people and their challenges and allow ourselves to be inspired then we also run the risk of being let down and disappointed. For people in vulnerable positions this disappointment can have massive ramifications. What stands true is that we all need to be aware of the greater sense of responsibility we have for the words that leave our lips or via our fingers on a keyboard.

There are so many astonishing and awe inspiring achievements going on in the world that we should be giving greater focus to. It is the courage of the human spirit and people investing time to achieve things others see as impossible that is of greater interest to me. For this reason i would have been much happier to see Mark’s story to have been true, or see him really try and fail, or just have finished in a much longer time. That indomitable spirit would promote far greater inspiration and a much better story to be told. It is a sorry story of the often insecure that they believe world records, course records and fastest known times are the only way to grab attention or inspire people.

I believe that the vast majority of the running community would want Mark to have genuinely smashed the record and be able to produce the evidence. Look at the positive response to Nicky Spinks and her double Bob Graham Round or the ongoing inspiration of the likes of Mimi Anderson. Ordinary people achieving extraordinary things. I am inspired by these people to continue to make my own positive influence on the world and to better myself and my capabilities. I am inspired by the likes of my wife who looks after my children full time and having suffered with SPD during pregnancy has embraced the challenge of running and is stretching her ability every day. She is inspiring our child and in turn inspiring me. That's the kind of real world inspiration that we should hold on to an seek to replicate. There will always be charlatans, but if we can all focus on inspiring others through positive actions then the charlatans will be seen for what they really are... a sorry minority.

So moving forward lets ensure we draw out the positives from those who achieve and dare to place themselves outside of their comfort zones. In my blog TP100 - A volunteers perspective i comment on the trials and tribulations of the back of the pack runners. Simply put you do not have to be winning or particularly fast to show the determination and indomitable spirit that inspires people. Had Mark remembered this then he could have reached and inspired so many more people. For the rest of us though it shows how the masses can have a far greater impact. In the facebook Ultra Running Community alone there are more than 10,000 members. I am sure a vast majority of them have an inspiring story to tell and one that is far more noteworthy than a man who foolishly thought he could drive a van from Lands End to John O’Groats and portray he ran it. Lets not let one man and his delusions detract from the credibility of people stretching their personal boundaries and raising money and awareness of good causes.

I often myself question when running long events whether to raise money for charity and in the beginning i would, but then started thinking every time i ran a race people might get a little bored about me asking for money. Mark’s story caused me to revisit these thoughts and to try and draw some good from an otherwise rubbish situation. I had been thinking about raising money for Make-A-Wish for some time. Having two young children of my own the concept of them being poorly or worse terminally ill makes me sick to my stomach. The courage such children show in the darkest of days absolutely deserves for their dreams to be rewarded. Such human courage inspires me and i figure if i, or someone else in the world, can then absorb this inspiration and go on to inspire others we can create a perpetual cycle of inspiration; each and every one of us using the inspiration of those around us to go on and do things that inspire and so on and so on. This will promote a positive attitude that has the potential to consume all media platforms in a far more positive way than the actions of Mark Vaz. Perhaps if the likes of Mark Vaz then see the positive reaction the “ordinary” person receives they will not feel the need to find a way to elevate themselves to a position of false superiority.

Lets promote a mantra of “ordinary people achieving extraordinary things.” Lets focus on those stories. Where issues of lies and deceipt appear then they should be exposed, but lets give them only the time and coverage necessary to do that. This will deter others from taking shortcuts to “fame.” It will also ensure they do not overshadow the positive actions of the majority.

In my bid to promote the positive i have decided that for my next race i will be raising money for Make-A-Wish. I will not raise money every time i run, but this race has been significant in my life and i think is significant enough for me to seek to raise money for a charity. I am running Grand Union Canal Race on the 28th May. For those that don’t know, this is a 145 mile foot race from Birmingham Gas Street all the way to Little Venice in London. I have been training for this race for the last 10 months. I have invested hours in my training and averaged about 50 miles per week or a total of around 2000 miles of running. I have loved the training, but it has been a challenge at times balancing this with family life (the way many, many others also do.) There will be highs and lows in this race and inevitably a great deal of suffering. No doubt there will be plenty of pictures to demonstrate my suffering. A few people have said to me that running 145 miles is impossible. The truth of course is that running 145 miles is not impossible and many people have run further and faster than i have. Many people will have completed the Grand Union Canal Race far faster than i will. For me though this is a mute point. The fact i can inspire those around me to improve their own lives and stretch their perceptions of what is possible i hope builds in to creating the perpetual cycle of inspiration i referred to earlier. If any children or parents involved with Make-A-Wish see my story and it inspires a child or family to stay strong and fight a little harder then my suffering will be a drop in the ocean.

If i can raise a small amount of money in addition to promoting the ethos of validating the good and dispensing with the negative then so much the better... “ordinary people achieving extraordinary things.”

If you would like to sponsor me, or more specifically donate to Make-A-Wish then you can do so by clicking here.

Perhaps we can raise some money for a good cause. If this comes out of doing something i love then great. The over riding message really from me is for us all to hold on to remembering that just because one person can so dramatically and publically lie and cheat doesn’t mean the majority of us do. We can all be part of a much bigger and positive picture and inspire each other along the way. Sponsorship for me would be a bonus, but promoting this ideal is the real message from this blog... ASPIRE TO INSPIRE!

I would love to see more blogs of people doing amazing things and stretching themselves. Reading these things will be a far more enjoyable use of my time than the ongoing saga’s of the likes of Mark Vaz and a far greater facilitator of change. Maybe you have your own story to tell that can inspire and maybe you have your own cause to raise money for and promote the awareness of. That is a far more enjoyable community to be part and a far greater message and example to set our children and others around us. At the time of hitting publish on this blog my little boy has just said "i want to be just like you daddy." When i asked why he said "you are big and strong and make us all happy." That is worth more to me than any course record (obtained honestly or otherwise) and the kind of inspiration we can all provide on a daily basis. If we remember this then the next time a Mark Vaz appears we can be sure to treat them for what they are... a single, sorry individual from within a vast community of genuinely good people.

Lets keep false idols and lies easily uncovered to a minimum; we will all be happier for it.