On a 100-kilometer run from London to Brighton for hotel charity Youth Career Initiative, I discovered hospitality everywhere, from both inside and outside of the industry.
On a whim several months ago I decided to run 100 kilometers (62.14 miles) from Blackheath in London, close to where I live, to Brighton, the seaside resort on the English Channel.
I’ve run 23 marathons and once ran a double crossing of the Grand Canyon, so I did not start from zero, but this equivalent of 2.4 marathons would require encouragement, even kindness.
Thank goodness I work in the hospitality business.
The enthusiasm, encouragement, sponsorship and kindness I have received from the hotel industry, and from my colleagues at Hotel News Now and its parent company STR, definitely powered me on to the finish line.
STR has partnered with charity Youth Career Initiative since this year, and I decided to raise funds for it. YCI, in its own words, “helps young people in dire circumstances across many countries gain employment opportunities in the hospitality industry. Many of the young people YCI works with are victims of human trafficking or extreme poverty, and the program works with local hotels to put them in a six-month training program that includes hands-on work experience, classroom education and mentoring.”
All the evidence suggests the program works, and STR is proud to work with it.
And me to run for it.
The hospitality industry, and many friends, has rallied to the cause, and so far, my run has raised approximately £3,000 ($4,000), money we can be sure will help change lives and bring talented, courteous staff into the industry.
Hospitality was also evident in the event organization, and I will plug Sussex Trail Events as they are good people. This definitely was a runner’s running event, with no thrills, no razzmatazz, no fancy websites.
Runners were given an emergency number and were told what was, and was not, an emergency—if you are lost; if you are tired, and if you are unable to run but can still move, and no transport can be arranged to the nearest station from the point any one runner decides to end their day.
The event started at 6:15 a.m. in the morning twilight. We were due to start at 6:15 a.m., but runners showed hospitality by waiting for one last runner to emerge from the bathroom. There were only 37 of us. I knew no one.
There were five checkpoints where hospitality was abundant. Our hydration backpacks were refilled with water, cakes and other foods were offered and some guidance on the next 17 kilometers (11 miles), or so, stretch was given.
At checkpoint four, in the beautiful village of Horsted Keynes, the village hall was opened, and villagers who knew us not spent considerable hours—the 37 of us had stretched out across considerably by the time kilometer 68 (mile 42) arrived—serving hot soup and making sure I was feeling good as I restocked salt-caramel goo, salt tablets, isotonic lemon drink and protein bars, etc., from the one permitted drop bag that was transported from the start to await me at this point.
I did not ask their names. They did not know mine. But as with any good hotel, you were made to feel you were truly wanted in their small home.
And we runners could not have looked at our bests. After the first hour or so in the urban streets and parks of London, the course entered the gorgeous Kent and Sussex countryside and its footpaths, narrow trails, mud, fields, rutted cow and sheep pastures, woods and country lanes.
I ran for some distance with Mark and Denis, two new friends, who showed equal hospitality, while running in runners’ barefoot sandal-style flip flops.
I was electrocuted at one point, mildly, I assume, as I lifted up a rope that I did not see was connected to a cattle fence. Slightly bemused, I considered that the wobble in my thigh might have served to push out some lactic acid, so all was good. Brambles and nettles scratched and stung the thighs, despite the best efforts of the organizers to take a machete to stretches, another hospitable act considering the small size of the entry list.
I held 19 self-tailored Ordnance Survey maps, cut to size, marked with the route and encased in plastic. I had to self-navigate.
Hospitality was evident in the large number of country pubs, some with hotel rooms, that I passed but which thankfully proved not to be a temptation, and in the smiles and encouragement of people out for Sunday strolls.
The last hour climbed sharply up to the ominously named Black Cap in the South Downs National Park, before the route hugged an exposed ridge fully open to the weather, which had become windy and wet.
As I dropped down to the finish line, the largest smiles of the day were found, from Francesca, my wife, and the event organizers, who had all done this before and knew the satisfaction such endeavors bring and the commitment to complete it. One-hundred kilometers done.
My best preparation for the 13 hours the run took me was to book a room at the Malmaison Brighton, a hotel within a five-minute walk from the finish line and which has a good restaurant, staff smiles and crisp white sheets—and, yes, firstly, a hot shower.
Hospitality was evident everywhere, and, as with many of our business and leisure trips, my run, my day and my event would not have been possible without it.
(If anyone would like to contribute to YCI my donations page will remain open for one month after the event ended, that is, until 3 October. My sincere thanks in anticipation, and thank you to everyone who has already been so generous.)
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