On Sunday I will run my eighth consecutive London Marathon. Due to injuring my collarbone during a game of ‘touch’ rugby with my Pure Filth training group it will be my first time running (against doctors orders) in a sling. No sling jokes needed. I’ve had them all.
While my legs pound the awe-inspiring 26.2 mile course I will be attempting to raise £65,000 for Cancer Research UK. That would in turn take my overall total raised for running the marathon since 2011 to £250,000. A target I’m desperate to hit! While the majority of cash has been donated to CRUK, I’ve also run for Stonewall, Terence Higgins Trust, Help The Aged, British Heart Foundation and more.
Last week I hosted my fifth annual Jog On To Cancer celebrity fundraiser which raised £63,000 and took me to sprinting distance of the huge target. Performers including Gabrielle, 5IVE, B*Witched, Liberty X and Sam Bailey donated their time for free to join over 500 guests including Alesha Dixon, Vicky Pattison and other famous faces, who all bought tickets to support.
A few weeks back I was asked by my friend – and as it so happens Attitude’s Editor-in-Chief – Matt Cain, why I did it? It wasn’t the usual ‘Why is raising money for CRUK important to you?’ type of question. Playing devil’s advocate Matt was asking what I got out of it. Which got me thinking, why did I put myself through the endless nights of insomnia worrying if everything would work out? The event has grown year on year thanks to performances from Mel C, Beverley Knight, Olly Murs, Craig David, The Script and co. Yet it still left me stressed, sleep-deprived and anxious every time. Here’s what I came up with.
I have many reasons to raise money for CRUK. Like every other person reading this article, cancer has affected my life in some way. The evil relentless disease stole my granddad Jack from a loving marriage and adoring family. He died just a year after retiring aged 66 of lung cancer despite never smoking in his life. But at least he had lived a full life.
It also claimed the life of my friend Javier, who in his mid-twenties, had his whole future taken away from him. Going to say goodbye to Javier in hospital and being faced with a skeleton of the beautiful person he used to be will stay with me forever. He was still laughing and joking as he always did until his newly married husband left the room. Javier then looked at me with fear in his eyes and said he was scared and didn’t want to die. I had no words to make the situation better.
That year I ran the London Marathon for CRUK in memory of Javier and Jog On To Cancer was born.
On a brighter note my brother-in-law Richard also battled cancer but he survive against the odds. Without CRUK my sister would have been a widower at 26 and their three beautiful and crazy kids – my niece and nephews – would never have been born. My whole family life that I cherish so much today would be completely different.
But when I strip away all the personal reasons why I have a slight obsession with making the event a huge success what was I left with? Playing devil’s advocate with myself like Matt had, I wondered, why did I give myself months of work for zero pay?
Is it because as a gay man who once tried to take his own life due to feeling rejected by society that I now have an obsession with proving my worth. A need to prove I’m good enough, not just good enough but the best. I’ve always been an all or nothing kind of person but does that mean I always need to push myself to achieve goals to warrant some sort of approval or validation that I’m good enough? Successful enough? Did I liked the attention? The adulation? Everyone telling me how amazing I am? Do I constantly crave for my ego to be boosted? Did I need everyone to love me, while I still learn to love myself?
Perhaps I needed the stress and focus of something incredible to deflect from the insecurities of every day life? A distraction from my own faults and flaws? The missing piece to my own incomplete life? After all, if I don’t have a next challenge or goal in life lined up I am a little lost!
If I’m honest the answer to all the above is ‘yes’ to some degree. But they aren’t the main driving force. Without sounding like an absolute dick I have a want, or more specifically, a need to do something good, something positive and hopefully inspirational. When I dissected all the psychobabble and self-annihilation what was left, and I can say this honestly hand on heart, is a need to do something good. A need for my life to mean something. To do something positive that makes a difference to people’s lives. The truth is I love my life and I love my job but it doesn’t give me enough satisfaction to go to sleep at night and know my life has purpose.
Doing a yearly run and organising a fucking amazing party which raises shit loads of money for Cancer Research UK each year helps to makes me feel a better person. Not because I hate or loath myself but because I want to feel like I’ve made a difference. In the absence of having children, which are not for me in this life time, I want to know my life had some meaning. And I want my family to be proud of me.
Ok. I’m not curing AIDS or cancer. And I’m certainly not trying to paint myself out as some sort of saint because I am far from it. I have many flaws which I don’t have anywhere near the word count to go into right now!
But on the flip side I’m trying to pay it forward. And the best thing about paying it forward is whenever I do something positive it is multiplied tenfold by everyone around me. Jog On To Cancer is by far a one man show.
Me and my good friend Wayne Dhesi, founder of the brilliant RUComingOut.com charity and Attitude’s resident Agony Uncle, have this saying, “Domino love” which excusing pun, I love. In simplest forms its karma or paying it forward. When you do something good, not only does good come back to you, but it has a domino affect. Good breeds good, love breeds love and hate breeds hate. Personally I want to be a Jedi on the good side of the force looking out for those who need it.
If I can inspire someone who doesn’t know me and has never met me to donate £2, £5 or £10 To Cancer Research UK to help save lives. Then I’m proud of that.
If I can go into a school representing Stonewall and stop just one kid feeling so scared and alone they feel suicide is their only option, then I’m proud of that.
And if I can share my experiences, contacts and time as a Trustee of RUComing Out to help make someone’s coming out experience a little easier than mine. Then I’m proud of that too.
You can help James hit his £250,000 target by texting JJOG85 £2 £5 or £10 to 70070 or donating here