Jeremy Joseph on why he's running the London marathon for the Elton John AIDS Foundation
G-A-Y founder Jeremy Joseph can usually found on stage at London's Heaven, mingling with some of the world's biggest celebrities as they take to the stage at the legendary nightclub, but this Sunday (April 23), the scene stalwart is gearing up to run the London Marathon for a mammoth seventh year in a row - all in aid of the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
Jeremy and the G-A-Y team have set themselves a goal of raising £1million for the life-changing organisation, and they're already well on their way. Sponsoring Jeremy round those 26 miles is just the latest in a string of fundraising efforts, and you can show your support and donate here.
But as Jeremy tells us, it's not just about fundraising: he wants to raise awareness. And there's some very important reason why...
The big day is almost upon us! How are you feeling?
I’m so nervous! I mean, I always am. I get really nervous and petrified. And I just go ‘Why am I doing this? Why am I doing this? Oh my god, I’m never doing this again.’ What happens is, the next day you get back and then you finish it and then the next day I get a call and they go, ‘Do you want to do it next year?’ and you go, ‘Yeah why not!’ The worse thing the next day is going downstairs - It’s the most painful thing ever.
What makes you so nervous about it?
There’s two things; one is that you can get injuries at any point and normally, if you see someone hurt in the street you’ll go and see if they’re OK but in a marathon you can’t do that, you’ve got to run over them and carry on. Anything can happen while running even with training or things like that and I’ve had an injury for a year now and anything can happen at any time. You just don’t know, anything can happen on the day, nothing is guaranteed and that’s the thing. Everyone’s trained for it and then they get to the day and one little thing can make it all go wrong.
Does it get easier each year? Have you set yourself any goals for 2016?
Every year I’ve gotten better, but last year I over-trained and I got shin splints, which I haven’t ever really recovered from it. But no, I never set a time and I know that a lot of people normally have a time in their heads, but I think just doing the marathon is the most incredible achievement. I worry that if you set a time and you don't make it you'll come away disappointed, which is ridiculous - you've just done a marathon! I think the goal is just to finish it - and then if you beat the time you did last year then that’s even better.
Obviously the whole reason you're doing this for the Elton John AIDS Foundation. What was it that drew you to the charity when you started doing this seven years ago?
To me, raising money is about also raising awareness. The point is that hopefully we’ll raise more awareness and this is such an important moment for people to know their status. It’s about getting knowledge of the Elton John Foundation and other HIV charities out there so people can get tested. The thing I love about the Elton John Foundation is that they give out grants; it’s not like some other charities when you’re giving directly to them, but by giving to EJF you’re giving to hundreds of other charities and I think that’s really important.
It’s also worldwide and you have to think about what’s going on in the rest of the world. You read about what’s going on in countries like Russia and like Africa, where if you can’t be out about your sexuality, then you can’t be open and honest about getting tested. So it's all about the awareness we get across and getting the message out there about HIV/AIDS.
We owe so much to the people that have lost their lives to this disease, and I think the one thing that’s been really important is that although we’ve moved so far forward, I think we owe the people that have lost their lives to actually finish this battle off. I want us to see this to the end and say we were part of creating an AIDS-free future.
How has the AIDS crisis affected you personally?
I lost many friends to it. I remember one particular friend who I lost... to watch someone deteriorate is the most horrific thing. In a way, that person sort of saved my life because when I saw what was happening to him I thought, 'Not in a million years will I ever have unsafe sex, because I don’t want that to happen to me'. But that’s why it’s so important now to keep raising that awareness, because a so many people don't have that personal experience these days.
Is that what runs through your mind as you're actually doing the marathon?
No, what’s going through my head is ‘What the f**k am I doing here! [laughs]’ You’re like, ‘You’ve got to stop doing this, I can’t do this anymore’ after the first few miles and then you get to Tower Bridge, which is 13 miles, and then you think ‘Oh, OK, hang on a second, I’m getting halfway. I can do this. And then you get to about 18/19 miles and the pain is hitting in and you’re thinking, ‘I just want to go home.’ And then you get to the Embankment and the crowds are amazing and it gets really emotional. In the last 800 metres you feel tears, you actually feel so drained and emotional and drained.
You obviously spend your days mingling with some of the world's biggest celebs when they come to perform at G-A-Y, and you've got some fairly high profile backers we heard?
Every year I’ve been really lucky and had really good support from people. I’ve had tweets from Sharon Osborne and Bryan Singer and then there’s people like Kylie, Adam Lambert and Rick Astley, who’s sponsoring me. I’ve had people be really, really supportive and that’s really good. It gets a message across to their followers too and as I say, I’m doing this for two reasons, to raise money and also to raise awareness - and social media is one of the best ways to raise awareness.
What would your advice be to anyone that's thinking of running the marathon?
It is horrendous but incredible at the same time. At school, I was always the person who was picked last and even my friends would argue about not having me! I was the least sporty person, but I think if I can get to this stage then other people can as well. I think it’s about whatever you can do now. One thing that’s amazing is the pride. If you know anybody running it, go and support them because it’s the one thing that gets you through it. The supporters on the route really help carry you through.
You can sponsor Jeremy and help the G-A-Y team support the life-changing work of the Elton John AIDS Foundation here.More stories:‘Prince dared to see sexuality and gender as the kaleidoscopic spectrum we now know it to be’From Eastenders to X-Men: Ben hardy is Attitude’s new cover guy!