Tag Archives: life

Could the New York Marathon still help the Sandy relief effort?

So the New York City marathon has been cancelled by Mayor Bloomberg. Of course it’s the right decision, but it should have been made earlier. If there are still bodies being pulled from wreckage then a major sporting event is just a distraction from the relief effort.

If the relief operation was a little further along the track then this could have been a great opportunity to see the city pull together around a major sporting event – to show the world that New Yorkers really can pull together and recover from any adverse situation. But the situation is obvious – while some TV cameras would be following runners along the streets, others in the media would be pointing out the ongoing relief effort and suggesting that 40,000 fit people with an entire Sunday free might want to do something more useful than just jogging around the city.

So the decision is right, but in all the debate I have seen so far, nobody has mentioned that the marathon itself is an enormous fundraiser for many charities. It’s not 40,000 middle-class folk just taking a stroll – many of those people have trained all year, setting the marathon as an enormous personal challenge that has allowed them to raise sponsorship and support for a chosen charity.

In the London marathon over 80% of the runners are doing it just to raise cash for good causes. New York is not quite at that level of charity runners yet, but let’s just do some sums.

Most charities will ask a runner to get a minimum amount… $2,500 to $3,000 is common for New York. So if 80% of the 40,000 New York runners are raising at least $3,000 then that is almost $100m being raised for charity from a single race. It could even be more if you assume that most runners will be raising more than the minimum expected.

The way it works is that the charities buy a guaranteed place in the race – they have to pay up front for a place and many charities will buy dozens or even hundreds of places. Then by ensuring runners get a minimum amount, the charity can ensure they raise a lot more than the places cost. Everyone wins.

If the race is now cancelled then what happens to all the money pledged by people who were supporting the runners?

One obvious answer here is to refund the charities all the money they invested in buying places in the race and to then ask runners to divert all the funds they would have raised from the race into the relief effort instead of their chosen charity.

That could put $100m on tap almost overnight and would ensure that cancelling the marathon still created something worthwhile for the city. It’s difficult though – many choose a charity to support for very personal reasons and some might feel that if they have gone to the effort of raising the cash then they should have some say in where it goes.

Will it happen?

I don’t know if the Mayor and the marathon organisers can get organised fast enough to make it work, but they need to make some fast decisions, because after the dust settles, hundreds of charities will be asking about their missing millions if nothing is done.

New York City Marathon

Photo by Young Yun licensed under Creative Commons

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Raise a glass to Douglas Adams on ’42’ day

I was in Malta recently talking to some government representatives and they mentioned how a big new IT park is opening in Malta on October 10th. I asked them why they would have the big launch party on a Sunday.

“10/10/10 – it’s binary, IT, understand!” they replied.

I understood the connection, and it’s a nice little idea to launch an IT venture on this date, just a shame it’s the weekend as journalists are hard enough to coax from their office, let alone from the pub during Sunday lunch.

But, I immediately converted the binary to denary and I realised it’s 42. So I replied to the business people talking about the IT park:

“You should make something of the fact that 42 is the answer to life, the universe and everything according to Douglas Adams in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy…

They didn’t understand me, or clearly have less enthusiasm for British science-fiction.

I thought I was the only one who had noticed this interesting little quirk of numbers, but when I googled it, I found that a few others have commented online – but not many. It still seems that there is not much awareness of the significance of this date.

I can vividly recall hearing that Douglas Adams had died in 2001 because I was in a bookstore in Bangalore and the manager of the shop rushed to tell me – just because I was the only English person in the store. I was back in there a couple of days later and we were talking about RK Narayan, who died that day. I thought that if I kept on returning to that bookstore I might kill off some more authors so I left it for a while before shopping there again.

How about raising a glass in memory of Douglas Adams on Sunday and toasting 42 on the Douglas Adams ‘binary’ day?

Douglas Adams - The Salmon of Doubt

It’s the last day of my thirties today – goodbye youth

So that’s it. The end of my thirties. I’ll be 40 tomorrow – that sounds very middle-aged, worse than heading from your 20s into 30s.

In the last decade I got divorced, I bought a house in London before prices exploded, I published my first book… followed by several others, and I also started working for myself rather than a company as an employee.

It’s been seven years now since I quit ‘regular’ employment and it’s been fruitful at times, and close to the wire at others. Fortunately things are OK right now as the companies I work with are fairly positive about a recovery from the recession… though who knows if they are right?

But I have lot of new plans for the future, and a great partner. I remember the BBC journalist John Humphrys once saying that you shouldn’t live each day planning for the perfect holiday, you should try to adapt your life so each day can be like a holiday.

Obviously most of us still need to work, but I like what I do – it’s very flexible and allows me to travel the world and meet interesting people. It’s certainly not a holiday when clients are chasing me over blogs or presentations, but being the master of your own destiny is a far nicer life than being in a bank or a consulting firm where your soul is exchanged in a Faustian pact all in the hope of that annual bonus.

So I’m not all that worried about getting older, life has got more exciting through my 30s – I expect it can only get better now!

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