As you may have guessed from my last post, this is not a cheap sport. Armour is not cheap. Taking a team of combatants from New Zealand to France is not cheap. Struggles like the lateness of being told the venue and the timing of picking the team all adds to the final expense. Not to mention of course the day to day expenses that crop up. We need money for marketing, the team needed money to pay for our membership to the Historical Medieval Battle International Association, people needed financial assistance just to travel within New Zealand, let alone overseas. So we decided to fundraise.
Personally, the only real experience I’ve had with fundraising is ignoring those people with buckets and stickers who stand on street corners Friday mornings, not a glowing resume for someone looking to gently extort the public for donations.
The most successful fundraising effort I have so far been involved in has been the Pledge Me Project – Running into Battle . Three of the team members pledged to run 5 km in all our armour. The kick off amount was $50. I said bugger running in all my armour for $50, if they want to see me burst my spleen, it’s going to cost them a little more than that! So I made a photo album on my Facebook page and pledged that for every $25 I got pledged I would put on an extra bit of armour, and if I got pledged $1000, I would run a victory lap wearing a chain mail bikini.
In hindsight (wonderful thing that it is) I think I set the bar a little too low, at $25 per piece, it only worked out to $200 for a fully armoured Rachael, which makes it a big jump to a bikini clad Rachael at $1000.
I have done some running before, running is great, I ran a half marathon once, I’m pretty fit, I can run 5km in my sleep. 5km in armour though… The pledges hit $50, so I figured it was time to get training. Running in public was out of the question, so I started training on the treadmill using a couch to 5km program. I figured that at 90kg with all my armour on, learning to run in armour would be similar to a 90 kg person starting a running programme for the first time.
I have run next to 90 kg people before. Not one of them had ever sounded like a drum filled with tin cans rolling down a hill. I pretty sure that the 90 kg people I’ve run next to haven’t ever sweated that much or had their heart rates go so high they were afraid to take their pulse rates either. And after a couple of days training, they could almost certainly run for more than 60 sec at a time.
I tried to run at least once a week in my armour, I really didn’t want to do it, it was really hard and being locked into that metal suit was not the same as running normally, where I kind of feel free and alive. It was really hard work. Plus, I hate running on treadmills.
Which brings me to footwear choices. I like to run in minimal footwear, I totally jumped on that barefoot running bandwagon when it came out, also, medieval footwear is pretty minimal and that’s what I would be wearing on running day. The most important thing about barefoot running is to avoid heel strike, which is where you strike the ground with the heel of your foot first instead of your midsole. It turns out running on a treadmill can actually promote heel strike.
I started to experience some pain, mainly in my left knee while walking and standing. I had to take painkillers at night to get to sleep. I figured I’d better go see a physio. I went to my first appointment and explained about the pain I was having and explained what I was training for, I think my physio thought I was a little cracked. He had fun with me though, I think he is a bit of a sadist, he always smiles when he jabs me in my inflamed tendons and I react in pain. And he’s used a lot of strapping tape on me too.
$165 worth of physio appointments later and I learned that increasing your bodyweight suddenly by around 30kg then running barefoot on a treadmill increases your chances of injury a little, who would have thought?
Meanwhile the pledges increased and running day loomed closer, I updated my profile picture constantly to reflect this, and plugged the project almost non-stop on my Facebook page for around six weeks. Many of my friends and workmates donated to the project in amounts of anywhere from $5 to $100, and I tried to make a point of thanking every one of them.
Let’s face it, many of the projects on Pledge Me are for very good causes, much fluffier, heart-warming and serve more apparent public good than an amateur sports team for a very new sport that smells a lot like geekery, so I was incredibly grateful for all the pledges. I’m pretty sure most of them just thought it would be hilarious to see a woman run in a chain mail bikini though.
As a kind of last minute thing I organised an event on Facebook and invited people to come see me run and partake in a sausage sizzle. I was in two minds about this, it’s nice to have company, but I also thought that I might throw up, pass out or die during my run, and I didn’t want to do that too publicly.
The day before the run I went to my physio and he wrapped my leg in yards of tape. I turned up to the park on the day, weather was good, not too hot not too cold. Around 15 supporters turned up to see me run, some of them ran with me, I loaned them various bits of armour to run in too. I was pretty nervous to start, to date on the treadmill I had managed to run a maximum of 3.64 km, and that included some walking.
Nervousness gave way to stubbornness and nausea. I ran 1 km and had a rest for half a minute, then I ran 500m and rested for half a minute. Eventually I was resting half a minute after every 250m lap. I drank some powerade and it tasted like thick syrup and stuck to my throat. Water was better. At the 3 km mark I busted a strap on my greave, that got me a 4 min rest for repairs. I had to get rid of my helmet and gloves, there was no way I could make it the whole way with those, that lightened me up about 3 kg. I did the last two laps in one go and even sprinted the last 100m. Then I lay down on the ground and didn’t move while everyone unbuckled my armour for me. At this point I was pretty happy, I may have had some rest stops, but I did run 5 km in plate armour. It took me 58 mins. Four minutes slower than my best 10km time.
Drinking my post-run bourbon
I would say I spent 6 to 10 weeks training for this and promoting it. The other two guys spent similar amounts of time in their own hometowns preparing in their own ways. This painful tiring venture pulled us in the grand sum of $1085 between the three of us. (And no, I did not run in the bikini $1085/3 = $361 per person.)
Here are some of our other fundraising attempts to date (there are more, but I don’t know about all of them):
Like most things I’ve done, I look back and think “would I do that again?” and the answer is usually, “yes, but..” I can certainly say I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment, I set a goal and I achieved it, I was very proud of myself. But the amount of effort that went into it was a lot, and I have a feeling it was a bit too much. After speaking with a few of my friends we discussed maybe doing another running event, but maybe something more like a relay, where you can run as a team, and no one has to work quite so hard.
I think the trick is to keep it simple. The harder you have to work, the less value you get for it. Fundraising is time consuming, and your time is important. I never heard of anyone having to train for weeks to run a sausage sizzle!