I’VE got it in the neck before on this, but I’m prepared to have another go. Thousands of runners are lacing up their trainers and stuffing themselves full of pasta in preparation for this weekend’s London Marathon, and as usual most of them will be completing the course in aid of a nominated charity. Big deal.
Now hear me out, I’m not knocking anyone who puts themselves out for a good cause, but the whole marathon experience just doesn’t make sense.
Let’s do the sums. The average London Marathon runner tots up around £2,000 for charity, which is all well and good.
For the purposes of the calculation I am going to ignore the fact that the charities have to stump up hundreds of pounds to the organisers to secure those all-important slots in the first place.
And let’s also put to one side the investment that any first-time marathon runner will need to consider – a decent pair of running shoes, proper kit, that sort of thing.
Let’s just talk about the time involved. Your first marathon will take you somewhere over four hours, maybe much more.
Four hours hard slog, a £2,000 return for charity – that’s an impressive return in anyone’s language.
But if you’re a first time runner, you have to work your way up to it.
Training runs, gym sessions, careful monitoring of diet – the experts reckon that you’re looking at devoting seven or eight hours a week to getting in shape, over four or five months.
So a worst case scenario means that you’re investing 160 hours, plus the four hours for the run itself.
That’s taken your hourly return down to around £12 an hour.
And you’ll also need to factor in the time it will take you to gather in all those promises of support, and make sure the cash gets paid – online giving services have taken a lot of the hard work out of this side of it, but let’s assume at least another 20 hours.
Add in a good few hours of travel to your chosen proving events – most people tackle a 10km run and a half marathon in the run-up to London. Another 20 hours? OK.
You’re under £10 an hour now, and it’s still dropping.
Even if you live close to the capital, getting into London for the run is going to cost a few quid, and it’s not as if you can reckon on the time of the run itself as your only investment on the day – there are all those hours before and after, energy bars, glucose drinks, whatever else you have to cough up.
It’s not much of a stretch to get the Marathon return down to minimum wage. Most competitors earn far more than that in their day job, and have serious skills to offer charities rather than pointlessly pounding around the pavements of London doing something they’re not very good at. See where I’m coming from?
If you want to make a difference, tot up the time it would take you to prepare for and complete a marathon, and devote all those hours to voluntary work instead.
The opportunities are endless, and it’s work that actually needs doing – which is not something you can say for a self-regarding 26 mile slog around the streets of London.