Posts Tagged Refugee Action

Running for Refugees

Above:  A Runner, Another Runner, Me

Well,  I never said I’d run the Great Yorkshire fast.  In fact, I quite distinctly and explicitly said I’d run slowly, and I did.   Slightly more slowly than last year, in fact.   However hard I try, I find myself falling back towards the rear of the last wave of runners, alongside people who are in fact walking, and people in cumbersome fancy dress.   If I’m honest, I do mind that, a bit.

I don’t expect to cross the finish line to a ticker tape welcome, cheer leaders waving pom poms, reporters queuing up to interview  me about the experience.  But for the stragglers, those last few runners to stagger over the line, there’s a bit of a sense of anti-climax as we stumble on suddenly jelly like legs to grab the last few goodie bags, and head home, as if we’ve arrived at a party after the booze has run out, and the music’s been turned down low.

I like to think, however,  that there’s something a little bit heroic about my continued efforts in a field where I am so clearly not gifted.   I like to think that the kind and cheery people who still line the route to the bitter end, who call out ‘Well done Catherine, keep going, you’re doing fine’, recognise a certain bloody-minded determination, whether or not they recognise or value the cause for which I run.

In recent weeks there have been cheers and tears for a Somali born refugee who’s proud to say that this is his country and to wear the British flag around his shoulders as he kneels on the track to pray.  And as we marvel at the Paralympics we remember also that it was a refugee from Nazism, Ludwig Guttman, who saw that people with spinal cord injuries who had been written off, left to die slowly and in despair could be given new hope, purpose and the chance to achieve through therapy and sport.  (And Guttman wouldn’t have been here without the help of the Society for Protection of Science and Learning, now the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics.)   This doesn’t prove anything, of course, except that amongst those who make their way here are some exceptionally gifted individuals.  But to me it says that a country that is confident enough in itself to be open and generous, hospitable and inclusive, will be enriched by that.    If we were to take away from our culture the contribution of refugees, we’d lose more than that gold medal, and more even than the Paralympic Games.  We’d lose landmark buildings, high street names, publishing houses, works of art  – in every field of business, politics, science, arts, sports, we’d lose.  The societies that drive people out because of their beliefs, their race, their sexuality, they lose.  And if the displaced and the exiled are not given sanctuary, then those people, gifted or not, destined to be famous or not, will be lost too, along with those who never got the chance to escape.

So, actually, I do like to think that I can use not only something I am quite good at (writing, communication) but something that I’m really
rather rubbish at, both for the same purpose, both to support the same cause, because more and more I believe that it is one of the most
important things we can do, to support refugees.

Refugee Action

If you’d like to help, you can sponsor me here: http://www.justgiving.com/Catherine-Annabel0

Find out more about the work of Refugee Action here:

http://www.refugee-action.org.uk/ourwork/default.aspx

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Why I run, why I run very slowly – and why I run for Refugee Action

refugee action

Those who’ve known me longest are the most surprised that I run – I spent most of my life strenuously avoiding unnecessary physical activity.  However, to my own surprise, I enjoy it.  It helps that where I live in Sheffield I can run for a few minutes from my home and find myself looking out over the lovely Rivelin valley, which lifts the spirits, even on a drizzly day.  On a sunny day, it makes me want to burst into song  (I don’t, as I’m usually too out of breath, and I don’t want to frighten the horses/dog walkers/other runners who are out there too).  On the flip side, you can’t run anywhere in Sheffield without having to deal with hills …

The Great Yorkshire Run is a great experience – there’s the full spectrum of runners, from the elite group (who were back across the finish line almost before my ‘wave’ set off) to unlikely runners like me.   I’m slow – though I get a tiny bit faster each time – which is fine, it’s a run and not a race, and I’m a middle-aged, traditionally built (thank you Alexander McCall Smith) woman, a pit pony rather than a gazelle.  But I keep going – once I start running I don’t stop, till I cross the finish line.

Last year I shaved 3 minutes of my previous year’s time (which itself was 10 minutes faster than I’d ever achieved in training).  When I’d slogged up the final cruelly steep hill a sudden spell of dizziness and breathlessness led to an ignominious journey on a golf cart to the medical tent.   This year, I’ve had back problems which stopped me training for a few weeks.  Despite that,  I’ll be doing the Great Yorkshire again this year, wearing the Refugee Action t-shirt.

Anyone who read my Refugee Week‘s worth of blogs about refugees will not be surprised at my choice of charity.  It’s really important to me how my country treats people who arrive here seeking sanctuary from persecution, violence and war.   My parents offered hospitality to Hungarian refugees after the uprising in 1956. Ten years later we found ourselves in northern Nigeria during the violence that preceded the civil war, when Igbo people were killed in their homes, on the streets, on the university campuses and in hospital wards.   Even those trying to escape from Nazi Europe often found their accounts of persecution doubted, and were unwelcome where they sought refuge.  You only have to read the reporting in many newspapers of any refugee issues to see how many half-truths and complete falsehoods are trotted out to bolster the view that we should send them all back (or at least send them somewhere else).  I know how much Refugee Action does to support these people, and to counter prejudice and misinformation, and I’m proud to be raising funds for this work.

So, if you feel as I do about the importance of this work, please sponsor me here:

http://www.justgiving.com/Catherine-Annabel0

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