Went for a run, a very nice run in the country

In the countyAfter a spectacular run in the countryside this afternoon, I finally have reached my October goal of 150 miles, closing the month on 153.  Now it’s rest time and I won’t be trying to cram the miles in the following week, because I want to achieve my last outstanding 2016 goal of getting under 50 minutes at the Abbey Dash next weekend.  I am really pleased to have been picking-off some PBs recently; I did this by 2 seconds at the Crossflats parkrun yesterday and earlier in the week I did the best time I have done in my running club’s timed mile.  I am now entertaining the idea that I can do better than last year at the Abbey Dash (which was 48:56).  I won’t get a PB at that race but bettering last year is a good goal.

This year so far I have done a total of 1083 miles and regardless of what I do in November and December this is my best total since 2012.  This is not in small measure due to the challenges organised by Awesome Virtual Running Events and I am grateful to have been able to get encouragement each month through that forum.

I now need to “bank” my training that I have done in the last month preparing for the coming season of winter races; hopefully I am now well prepared.  I won’t be actively going for any mileage goal in November, rather take things as they come and trying to stay out of trouble.

Over the coming months I want to set some goals for 2017.  I already have decided to have a crack at my Marathon PB and I have entered the Yorkshire Marathon so the MarathonMann blog will continue the story.

How many are your works, Lord!
    In wisdom you made them all;
    the earth is full of your creatures.

Psalm 104:24 NIVUK

Points mean prizes

BitwalkingI have always liked to raise money for charity through sport and physical activity.  I have memories from my school days of going round with a sponsorship form for a swim or walk and I am sure most people have done that at some time or other.  Of course,today the sponsored event has now reached a new level with the likes of the London Marathon and other similar events being industrial scale money raising machines.  Surely this is a good thing and indeed, I have sought sponsorship for marathons, half marathons, stair races and goodness knows what else.    However, in some ways I am a little bit uneasy about all this because at the end of the day, my “fundraising” is all about the generosity of my friends, family and work colleagues; all I am doing is something I enjoy.  Of course there is nothing wrong with drawing attention to good causes but I have always striven not to let my participation in sponsored events be a substitute for my own giving.  I also don’t like to overstretch things and have over several years rationed myself to one event per year.

Is there a better way of converting my activity into money for charity?  Is there some means by which I can raise money for say, the British Heart Foundation without having to rely on the sponsorship of my friends?  Recently I have noticed a number of smartphone apps emerge, which promise various types of rewards linked to physical activity, could I use this to raise money?

The first of these I downloaded is Bounts, presumably a clever play on the words Bounty and Bounce.  You get points for steps and activity logged by other apps on your smartphone like Strava.  Points are also added if you visit certain fitness related locations such as gyms.  When you have accumulated points you can spend them on various offers and the promise is that these are more than superficial discounts and include real cash equivalent vouchers you can spend in major high-street names including M&S.  The reality however, is that it feels very much like a “daily deals” service; the big name offers like M&S always seem be “sold out” which tells me that these are available to the system in very small numbers.  My guess is that this is because either the “big names” are using it as a promotional vehicle or Bounts itself is funding a small number of “real deals” out of its revenue.  What revenue? you ask and this is where some of Bount’s business model gets exposed.  With the free service you can collect only up to 15 points per day whereas if you take the ‘premium’ service at £1.49 per month you can collect up to 180!

Now for the charity deal – one of the ways you can earn Bounts points is from raising money for charity – specifically Cancer Research UK which has a partnership with Bounts.  You can also donate Bounts points to CRUK and I was curious as to what they would do with such a gift and what value they would gain.  What Bounts told me is that gifted Bounts points would be used by the charity to incentivise others to give and fundraise.  The problem I have here is that it implies that the Bounts points given out by the charity as an incentive aren’t “new Bounts” but those recycled by givers. I can’t see the “donate your points” to CRUK being popular enough to sustain that and so I am afraid I smell a rat.   The bottom line is that I am not convinced that a donation of say, 100 Bounts points to Cancer Research UK is valuable enough to bother!

The second app I looked at was Sweatcoin, a play on the word “Bitcoin” (which is a real live viable digital currency).  You get .95 of a Sweatcoin for every 1,000 “outdoor” steps you take and this is capped at 5,000 steps per day.  Again there is a premium service but this time you can pay in Sweatcoins so for example you can increase your earning power to 10,000 steps per day for 4.75 Sweatcoins per month.  This is quite a good deal because with this first premium level, the whole monthly fee would be covered by the additional earning power exploited on just one day!  The “deals” are similar to those available using Bounts – daily deals and things like “free months gym membership” which is a pretty standard promotion you expect from gyms (for free).  Because Sweatcoin isn’t collecting hard cash from members, it won’t have a revenue stream to subsidise deals and presumably therefore it is relying on the promotional attraction to get sellers to offer deals.

The Charity offer with Sweatcoin is more interesting.  An company in india (Aarti Industries) will convert Sweatcoins to 7.5 Indian Rupees (worth about 10p) and give it to a charity dealing with the needs of drought stricken agricultural communities in India (the Naam Foundation).  Presumably this comes from the company’s “corporate social responsibility” budget so its not clear to what extent the Sweatcoins actually generate new giving but hay, if I generate 10 Sweatcoins in a day, that translates to £1 going to help a troubled community in India.  This is a more tangiable donation than the Bounts deal.  I can’t control which charity my donation goes to but it’s better than nothing.

I have left the most interesting scheme to last.  I heard about this a year ago and registered an interest.  Bitwalking is a company that aims to create a fully-fledged digital currency that can be “mined” by walking or running.  Bitwalking comes with high ideals, they cite equality and have a principal “a step is worth the same value for everyone – no matter who you are, or where you are”.  The aim also is high, to end up with a real currency, something that can be freely converted into things like GB Pounds and US Dollars or used for payment for “hard” goods and services (not just special deals).   This might sound like a pipe dream but its modelled on Bitcoin, a real virtual currency that is “mined” (i.e. created) using heavyweight computer power.  Bitwalking seems to be happening at walking pace; people in the UK had to wait a year for availability and even now, its only available on Android.  At the moment in the UK you can only generate Bitwalking Dollars (W$), you can’t spend or exchange them; they are for the time being locked in your electronic wallet.  In Latin America there is a charity partnership with Nokia (now part of Microsoft) which is converting W$ into US dollars for educational projects so there is obviously some traction in other parts of the world.  There is a maximum accumulation rate of 3 W$ per person per day which isn’t really a hardship because you need to run about 10 miles to get 1 W$.  Will this take-off, will it get real?  I have no idea but I am accumulating W$ just in case.  Fortunately I have access to an Android phone but I expect it will need to be on iOS as well to get UK acceptance.

If Bitwalking succeeds then generating or “mining” the currency will be doing the same as a central bank when it “prints” currency (e.g. Quantitative Easing) only on a micro-scale.  This doesn’t actually create wealth (you need to create value by making/selling something or delivering a service to do that) but does stimulate economic activity.  Printing money actually dilutes wealth or you could say redistributes it and so giving individuals the means to print limited amounts is a progressive concept.

So, where does that leave me in my search for a better way of raising  money from my running exploits?   The jury is still out on the long term viability of these points and currency apps.  However, for the time being I shall carry on collecting Sweatcoins and Bitwalking Dollars in the hope that by doing so I can create more opportunities for doing good things.  If I can find a really good scheme then it might be worth starting a team fundraising event; if you have say 100 runners running 100 miles in a month then using the Sweatcoin model that could be equivalent to raising £1,000 and no-one has to raise a penny of sponsorship from their friends!

“Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.”  Proverbs 13:11 NIV


Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

img_3525When I wrote about the Great North Run a few weeks ago, I was aiming to do the race in under 2 hours and was really chuffed to achieve that by some margin.  The Bridlington Half is one of my favourite races and I have done it for (it seems) many years.  It was kind of a last minute decision to do it this year but something in me wanted to so this morning, despite the somewhat what less than rosy weather forecast, I set off.

By “less than rosy” I mean that the forecast was for heavy rain accompanied by high winds from the South which is meaningful to anyone who has done this race before and has memories of that last slog to the finish along the coast.

At the start it was fairly dry, not too cold but a bit windy and the brand-new leisure centre provided somewhere indoors to hang about before “starters orders”.

My objective was to try and run under 1:55 so I had determined the pace I needed (about 8:40 minute miles).  As we ran the first several miles, which are all on average up-hill I was very pleased with my pace.  I heard some ladies nearby discussing their race goals and one said to the other she was aiming for under 1:54 so I felt in good company.  As time went on I kept up the pace and I kept up with the 1:54 woman so again I was quite comfortable.  Then as we ran down into town at about the 9 mile point I started to entertain the idea that maybe, just maybe I could get under 1:50.  This was a crazy thought because I know what a struggle those last 4 miles are through the streets of Bridlington and then into the wind along the coast, but I couldn’t shake the thought.  I had really done it now, I had managed to make it so I would have a twinge if disappointment if I didn’t make the new 1:50 target.  Deep down though I knew it wasn’t going to happen.

Toward the end of the race you go though a park and then turn right onto a path that usually carries a tourist train ride thing and heads towards the promenade where the finish line is.  This stretch is more than a mile and is notorious for being exposed and therefore very windy.  By this stage it had been “chucking in down” for quite some time and the wind had kicked-off, one had wet feet and sodden clothes! I don’t think I’ve been wetter since the Boxng Day Chevin Chase last year.  By the “one mile to go” point, it was clear, the 1:50 target was real but to get it, I would have to really “leg it” for the final mile.  As the finish post loomed I looked at my watch and there was a minute to go so I ran as fast as I could!  Then the finish line was closer and still 30 seconds to go…

Then I crossed the line, stopped my watch and when I looked down I saw it said 1:49:52.  Now that was close but I was so elated I didn’t care; not in my wildest dreams would I have thought I was fit enough to do that in those conditions.


So how do you set the right goal?   I don’t know, but set something realistic, that way you might surprise and delight yourself.

“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭37:4‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬