So here we are approaching the end of 2014. An at times immensely challenging yet rewarding year, with a chunk of the absolute hardest training I have ever done coupled with some of my best results to date. My last blog back at the end of October wrapped up most of the year, so I won’t go into too much again this time around. I wasn’t even planning on writing another blog before 2015 if I’m perfectly honest, but just like this time last year something rather unexpected has popped up. Twelve months ago I had suddenly decided to run a marathon and had already started training, embarking on a near-800 mile odyssey that would take me all the way through to early April. This year, a boozy decision made on a whim late on Sunday afternoon has left me facing a second consecutive December of running, and for the second year in a row a run on Christmas Day. WTF.

It all came about following a few beers in the local watching Tottenham put in their best performance of the season against Everton. Absent mindedly checking a couple of Facebook notifications after getting back, I noticed one of my friends had invited me to a group called Marcothon 2014.  Usually this sort of thing barely registers as I get all sorts of shite sent to me, invites for rubbish games and whatnot. But for some reason – possibly the six pints of Sheffield stout – I felt drawn to click on this one and was presented with a brilliantly simple yet fairly daunting challenge where essentially all participants run at least three miles per day for the whole of December. The name comes from the name of the runner who inadvertently started this whole thing back in 2009, Marco Consani. After setting himself the challenge of doing it every day throughout the whole of November, his wife Debbie subsequently upped the ante by taking on the challenge herself the following month, Christmas Day and all. She dubbed it Marcothon and it’s now in its fifth year, with a Facebook group of nearly 3,000 committed idiots and probably hundreds more the world over taking on the challenge.

And what a challenge it promises to be. An entire month of running, during one of the coldest, darkest parts of the year and in amongst all the boozing and eating over the festive period. A nice little challenge to round off the year. Well, maybe not “nice”, but y’know. Something to get my teeth into while the bike still lies in pieces awaiting repair ahead of the return of the warmer weather and longer days. Something a little bit different to the norm, rather than just me boring you all with “blah blah blah, training training training, because target” etc. There won’t even be any training this time. I’m just aiming to go out and run for extended period of time, for 31 consecutive days.

I’ve never done anything quite like this before. A whole month of running without a single day off. Even in the darkest extremes of MARATHON TRAINING I never managed that. OK, so the distances were waaaaaaaaaay longer back then (over seven times longer in some cases), but at least I got my Fridays and the occasional Saturday off to rest and recover a bit. Not so for Marcothon. No time for any niggles or injuries to heal, just straight back out the following day. Running before work, after work, running early in the morning, late at night or whenever I can squeeze it in. Running hungover, running on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve. No matter what the weather, no matter how cold, wet, windy or snowy, I am committing to running every single day for an entire calendar month.

Most importantly, for the first time since 2011 I’m doing it for charity. With it being Christmas, I can’t help but feel for those with nowhere to live as the nights draw in and the temperature plummets. The Booth Centre offers activities, advice and support to homeless people in Manchester, providing education, training and advice to enable them to find new homes, improve their health, increase their skills and confidence and to successfully resettle in the community. They are recognised as being one of the country’s leading day centres for homeless people and have received awards in recognition of their work to reduce the number of rough sleepers in Manchester. So, I’ve decided to have a bash at this to try and raise a few quid to help them go about their amazing work, at a time when homeless people need help more than ever.

Just to add a twist, this particular charity challenge has two sides to it, and to be honest the second is the one that I fear the most. But first, a bit of background. Basically, anyone who has know me for any period of time will know about my complete inability to grow any decent semblance of respectable facial hair. A 2006 “dissertation beard” while finishing my university studies resulted in a frankly pathetic ginger Gary Neville affair, but surrounded by several of my mates with varying degrees of facial success, not to mention being in an environment where I rarely ventured out to meet real people, this seemed somehow acceptable. Significantly worse though was 2009’s attempt at Movember, as the ginger fluff returned and nearly resulted in the breakup of a three year relationship with the other half. Despite the three figure sum raised for charity, the ridicule from friends, family and work colleagues (which to this day still continues) was enough for me to vow “never again” and just make sure I donate plenty to others who can pull it off rather than revisit the scene of the crime myself.

So, bearing all that in mind, ladies and gentlemen, I give you DECEMBEARD.

Much like a marathon, where it takes me years to build up the courage to have another go, 2014 marks the latest (and probably, in all fairness, the last) attempt at growing some facial fluff as a challenge. As with Movember, Decembeard is aimed at a specific cancer charity, however I am accepting the challenge as an extension of my Marcothon fundraising. Not to knock the original cause by any stretch of the imagination, but as I’m already putting my legs through hell for the Booth Centre I thought why not tag this on as well in the hope of raising a bit of extra cash for them? Maybe you were reading this and started glazing over as soon as I started banging on about running again. But now look! I’m making myself look utterly stupid for a month as well so that’s got to be worth a few quid, right?

If you do decide you would like to donate a bit for either act of lunacy then please do. I’ve set up a fundraising page here as I’m now already three days in, with all the runs so far in the bank and an (un)satisfactory amount of scratchy fluff appearing around the face. It’s yet to begin the transition to “strawberry blonde” as it grows longer but the month is yet young.

So there you have it. The month of December will be my “Forrest Gump” month, as basically I just keep on running and not shaving. It’ll be nowhere near as impressive as the great man of course, neither in terms of distance covered nor facial hair sprouted, but hopefully by at least having a bit of a go I can make a small difference to those who have nothing this Christmas time.

If you’d like to donate you can visit my fundraising page at
justgiving.com/marcothon2014

Or text GUMP81 followed by your amount (e.g. £5) to 70070
_________________________________________________________________________

Featured image (top of page) © theweek.com