Running Readers: The Santa Dash 2012

In just over two weeks, a 13 strong team of Reader Organisation runners will be donning their Santa suits and dashing across the city of Liverpool on Sunday 2nd December to raise money for The Reader Organisation’s Apprenticeship for Life Campaign.

We’ll be joining 8000 people for the Santa Dash, one of the biggest fun runs in the world, to try and raise a total of £500 towards employing another young care-leaver apprentice and providing them with the means to build a full and independent life. Our two existing apprentices, Eamee and Niall, are among the runners participating this year and they’ll be filling you in on their training, and why we’re running, over the next couple of weeks.

If you’d like to show your support for the campaign and our reading runners, please visit

Now, time to decide whether to run in a red or a blue suit…

Three Peaks Training Diary: Training and Learning

The Three Peaks Challenge is looming, and Team TRO are frantically cramming in as much training as they can in the space of just over a week. In the long process, they’ve certainly learnt a lot – mainly about how you can ache in places you never thought possible – but it hasn’t all been bad, getting the team out of the office and out amongst  some of the most picturesque nature the country affords (I feel a Wordsworth poem coming on…). In this latest fitness diary, one of our Three Peakers shows us training life through a lens…

Signing up for this challenge has been an education in the outdoors for me. Since we started our preparations, I’ve climbed my first mountain, swam in my first wild stream and simply spent more time outside, in fresh air.

I have especially enjoyed taking photographs of the team as we have walked together. Here are the latest pictures – they’re from our weekend ramble along the Pennine Way.

This will be our last proper walk together before the real thing at the end of this month. It’s getting close now but, as one of my group members said at the end of our reading session, ‘I feel like I could climb a mountain now’.

Let’s hope that Team TRO will still be smiling at the end of their Three Peaks Challenge…you can help to put a grin on their faces right now, and boost support for a young care-leaver who will be our future Apprentice, by donating to the Three Peaks Challenge today. Just go to the Three Peaks Charity Giving page and give what you can – everything will be very much appreciated by The Reader Organisation.

Three Peaks Training Diary: What a Jubilee

The days and hours are ticking down to The Reader Organisation’s Three Peaks Challenge, with 15 of our bravest, fittest staff members trekking up the three highest summits in England, Scotland and Wales to raise money for our Apprenticeship Programme. With time flying by, our latest training diary comes from Sam Shipman, Reader-in-Residence for 5 Boroughs Partnership NHS Trust, who certainly isn’t slacking – even using the recent extra-long Bank Holiday to do some all-important preparation…

I suddenly realised before the Jubilee Bank holiday that the Three Peaks Challenge would be upon us in the blink of an eye and I really needed to get training hard, the only problem was that I had arranged many festivities for the weekend and so would have to be clever if I was going to fit in physical exercise as well. The first opportunity for this arose during the Jubilee party in my Mum’s village of Brompton-by-Sawdon (did you know that William Wordsworth was married in Brompton church?) when it was announced there would be a tug of war over the river, villagers from Brompton versus villagers from Sawdon, perfect training opportunity, I jumped on the Brompton end of the rope wearing my best trainers and clean jeans and this is what happened:

Next came the duck race, normally this involves only the ducks moving, however, a very merry villager who had already had a glass of wine tipped the ducks into the river too early, the finish line hadn’t even been marked out and so somebody had to do something, I took the opportunity to ruin my trainers even more and jump into the river rescuing the quickly escaping ducks. Training effort number 2 done!

After this things quietened down a bit until the schedule of events went all wrong and they announced they were about the judge the best dressed pet competition half an hour ahead of time….disaster! Our dog wasn’t ready, his costume was in the house and we were half a mile away, I raced home, grabbed the costume and raced back, just in time. Victory was ours and Jack won thanks to my training effort number 3 (oh, and the very skilled costume making from my Gran).

Certainly not your usual kind of training but it all counts! Now the festivities are over I’m back on a more usual training schedule consisting of climbing, running, and walking, not long now!!

Our Three Peakers are just over halfway climbing the mountain of their sponsorship target, but they need a push! Every penny helps…show your support and do your bit:

Float like a butterfly, mountains there’s 3

“So began the third act of the fight. Not often was there a better end to a second act than Foreman’s failure to destroy Ali on the ropes. But the last scenes would present another problem. How was the final curtain to be found? For if Foreman was exhausted, Ali was weary. He had hit Foreman harder than he had ever hit anyone. He had hit him often. Foreman’s head must by now be equal to a piece of vulcanized rubber. Conceivably you could beat on him all night and nothing more would happen. There is a threshold to the knockout. When it comes close but is not crossed, then a man can stagger around the ring forever. He has received his terrible message and he is still standing. No more of the same woe can destroy him. He is like the victim of a dreadful marriage which no one knows how to end. So Ali was obliged to produce still one more surprise. If not, the unhappiest threat would present itself as he and Foreman stumbled through the remaining rounds…..A fine ending to the fight would live in legend, but a dull victory, anticlimactic by the end, could leave him half a legend.”  (extract from The Fight by Norman Mailer)

Now for the fitness diary:

Right so the Three Peaks are now roughly 2 weeks away and to my remembrance I’ve only ever walked up one mountain in my WHOLE LIFE a few weeks back. I’m sure I walked up Moel Famau when I went to Colomendy with my primary school I was about 10 though so I’m not even including that one. Here’s me, the apprentice, the least organised person in the three peaks team – the guy who turned up to a training walk in a vest and a pair of Boston Celtics shorts when everybody else had thoroughly exhausted the shopping list of items and turned up with a packed lunch, a backpack, a bottle of water and a waterproof coat (amongst others). What can I say? I’m just happy if I’m there and I’m not too late – will this be my downfall? Will I pay for my complete lack of organisational skills or will I triumph on behalf of all the people who think it will be alright on the night? Now I know it will be hard and maybe one of the hardest physical things I have ever done so I’ve got to do some training at least and so far this is consisting of: the gym on my dinner hour 3 times a week – it takes 10 minutes to get there and 10 minutes to get back so I usually have 30 minutes in the gym on weight training (which won’t help too much when it comes to the three peaks) also I’ve been doing this weird sprint, then jog, then a panting walk thing en route to work. The moral of this story is running to work and gyming on my dinner hour means that I’m a pretty smelly guy at the minute.

Even though it seems as though it’s hard to train my ‘walking skills’ how exactly do you train for 24 hours of walking, outdoor exposure, and freezing cold/boiling hot weather? So by that reasoning I see this all as a mental thing. ‘It’s all in your head Niall just be strong lad’, so I’m going to get the ‘eye of the tiger’ on when the time comes, a bit like Rocky Balboa – and you saw that guy, I mean he can go up against the Russian machine that is Ivan Drago and knock him down after taking a beating. This is what my personal three peaks will look like – sure I’ll take a beating, I may fall over from time to time, at times it will seem like I’m alone on this challenge, the crowd will leave me but what matters is at the end of the day I’ll have come out with a flurry of punches left, right, jab and then to finish with that sweet uppercut the referee counts, 1 mountain, 2 mountains, 3 mountains and just like that I’m standing at the top of the 3rd Mountain having knocked out George Foreman, leave him tumbling down the side of the rocky cliff face.

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks risks will acomplish nothing in life” – Muhammed Ali

So come on then people! If you haven’t sponsored please do, lets get another former looked after child in here as an apprentice

The Triumphant BLUE Santas

It was raining – torrentially. Think of the term ‘bucketing down’ then add a few more buckets! I’m talking about the TRO Santa Dash of course which despite being held on what is probably The Reader’s busiest day of the year (due to Penny and Ha’Penny Readings) was a resounding success! As the title suggests the Blue Santas stormed across the finish line first (obviously) and the reds, well, they were left behind (if only it was like this in real life.) We all enjoyed our running in the rain and raising money for the holiday for the looked after children we read with next year.

Santa Zoe and her little helpers

But don’t just take my word for it, here’s a testimony from our Wirral apprentice – and our youngest member of staff – Eamee Boden:

Completing the Santa Dash was such a good feeling. Being one of thousands of red and blue Santas it was great to be a part of that crowd, even though it was really windy, hail stoning and raining. It didn’t bother anyone about the rain as they were either raising money for a charity (like we were), or in memory of a loved one. The fact that everybody wanted to be a part of it was amazing and doing such a good thing kept people going despite the terrible weather conditions. Just before going up and across the flyover I couldn’t believe the amount of people that were there. I couldn’t get over the fact that supporters were standing on the pavements cheering complete strangers on. There was one guy who stood on a balcony holding a big sign post with the words ‘Santa is an Evertonian’. I don’t know about the reds but this certainly did please a lot of blues (including myself 🙂 ) , and people were looking up to and agreeing with him.

At the finishing point - with the real Santa?

When the race was over, it was an achievement that felt really good. I felt pleased and proud not only of myself but for our team, we worked hard and we pulled it off together.

Thank you for supporting us as we raised a whopping £1,010! A very big giant, huge, massive, ginormous thank you to everybody. However, if you were meaning to donate and forgot to get around to it you could still donate to this cause here in hindsight – Thank you all and see you next year for more Santa Dashing goodness.

Santa Dash: The reason why we’re running

With the big event this Sunday (well – two big events – how can we possibly overlook the Penny Readings?), the Reds and Blues are in the last lap of their intensive training . Never mind twelve drummers drumming  – though we’re sure there’ll be much beating of drums once they race over the finishing line in record time – it’s all about the twelve TRO Santas dashing across the centre of Liverpool.

Getting in some last minute training

All of the training, blood, sweat and (hopefully not too many) tears is in aid of helping to continue to support the looked-after children we read with and in particular, to give them a wonderful adventure holiday to remember. Our final Santa Dash 2011 report comes from Young Person’s Project Worker and member of the Blue team Anna, who explains the reasons why our Red and Blue Santas are taking part:

I am a project worker in Liverpool on the Looked After Children project. I read one to one with 10 young people aged between 8 and 16 in their various foster placements.

They can be a tough crowd. Many have very poor concentration, and find sitting and listening to a story for 5 minutes (let alone an hour) a challenge. They often also have low self esteem. This lack of confidence means many are unwilling to read aloud and find it difficult to open up and chat about what we’re reading according to the GIR model. Control is also an issue, as every carer tells me. Looked-after children have never had any control over the biggest, most distressing aspects of their life (such as who they can live with), and as a result many try to control the smallest of things to compensate. In a one-to-one reading session this can be particularly difficult if the young person has little interest in reading! Along with all of this, every young person has many complicated psychological and emotional difficulties flying around their heads that they need to learn to understand and cope with. Behaviourally this can be presented with anxiety, aggression, being withdrawn or hyper-active.

With all of this it is understandable that school and relationships with friends and family can be extremely hard for these young people to manage.

I feel really privileged to be able to work with the young people I meet in such a positive way. Whilst it can be very tough to get them to engage with the reading session, it is wonderful to be able to value every contribution they make. By placing no pressure on each young person, gradually they respond to the sessions with more enthusiasm and interest. As a one-to-one session, it gives them the chance to pursue their individual interests and develop their own approach to understanding and enjoying stories and poetry.

It is wonderful when the moment happens, and the young person ‘discovers’ reading. This has taken anything between 2 weeks and 6 months! The 6 month-er, a girl aged 12, was always very reluctant. “I don’t want to read today, can we finish early?” This question was asked every week without fail! When we started The Invention of Hugo Cabret she was really surprised how much she liked it: “Can we keep reading? I’m not usually like this but this book’s very interesting!” We are now reading Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick. Every week she is fascinated, excited to start the story, asks lots of interesting questions (ranging from space, to God to history) and is upset when it is time to end, “Oh no! Can you read a bit more please please?!”

This chance to bring young people out of themselves, to help them develop their interests and explore imaginatively the world we live in through the world of reading is so much fun. Many of the young people have such limited aspirations, so helping them to see the world beyond their experience is immensely important.

TRO Santas: Running to support looked-after children

The work we do with looked-after children is so important and to give them a special holiday will be wonderful. It’s only with your help that we can raise funds and make it happen. Please donate what you can by visiting our online fundraising page – everything, no matter how big or small, will make a huge difference.

Santa Dash: Training Update #2

There really isn’t long to go now until the Santa Dash, so things are definitely stepping up several gears. Our Dashers are now in possession of their respective red and blue suits (I think you’ll agree that they look rather dashing – pun intended in the hope that they’ll gain some extra speed along the way) and rivalries are very much in effect…(now, now – we’re all on the same team. But some healthy competition can’t hurt…or at least we hope it doesn’t – we can’t risk the injuries)

Scrapping Santas (calm down, calm down...)

We’ve already heard from the Blue team; now it’s time to get a report from the Reds – in particular, from our receptionist Michelle, who tells us how she got involved – or was slightly coerced – into joining the TRO Santa Dash crew and how her training is coming along…

The first day of a new job is usually very nerve wracking. You’re in a new environment and subject to polite interrogation by your new, subtly intimidating, colleagues. The best thing you can do in my book is keep your head down and pray that your subordinates go light on the runt.

Not in my case….

I sat shy and hunched, squirming in my swivel chair, trying to come across as aloof and as comfortable as possible. The office was full and everyone was busy, tapping away on their keyboards.

“Do you run?”

The tapping ceased and everyone peeped up. The question came from Niall, I recognised him from my informal interview day. He had shoulder length hair at the time; today it was shaven.

Great – I’m being ostracised by the office yob already.

“Do you run?” he repeated. I was miffed. “Erm…sometimes”, I lied.

“Great, do you want to run the Santa Dash then?”

And that was how it started. That is how I had my arm twisted up my ‘too new to say no’ back…!

I worked quietly throughout my first week and a half, hoping that no-one would remember my agreement. I’m terrible at running – think Phoebe from Friends crossed with an over fed sausage dog. However that irksome fundraiser Niall was right on my case.

Hence, I have started a rebellious training programme to gear me up for the 5k run. I’ve heard Boost bars are full of glucose so I’ve been feasting on the energizing delights, plus an extra layer of fat is sure to help me through that freezing, December morning. ‘What physical training have you under gone?’ I hear you say….well, I’m yet to put my feet to gravel; however, I have been getting lots of tips from watching Usain Bolt clips on YouTube.

The Santa suit is another thing which worries me slightly. My boyfriend Jack ran the Santa Dash a few years ago and his Santa Claus pants fell down during the race. Now that would be enough to put you off your Weetabix if that happens to me!

Anyway, I’ve devised a cunning plan with the help of our Business Manager, Zoe Gilling. She’s going to bring her two little elves and we’ll push them around the course in their prams. A race I can walk – ho ho ho!

Much more in keeping with the festive spirit

Although the Santa Dash is a great chance for people to have fun and jog off the previous night’s hangover, the real cause behind it is the fundraising. Here at The Reader Organisation our aim is to raise enough money to take a group of underprivileged children on holiday. Whilst we all make plans to visit family, swap gifts and celebrate, a lot of children don’t get this opportunity and Christmas is another isolating time in which their often very sad realities are magnified.

If you can make a donation you can do so at our online donation page; if you have any queries or questions whatsoever please don’t hesitate to contact The Reader Organisation’s fundraising team on 0151 207 7207.

We’re doing well up to now, but we need more – the call comes to you to keep on giving; anything, big or small, will make a huge difference.

Santa Dash: Training Update #1

It’s mere days until our TRO Santa Dashers set off at the starting line, running to raise funds for very important work with looked-after children. All twelve are training hard in preparation – and of course, there’s an added competitive element to proceedings as it’s Reds vs. Blues. Who will emerge victorious? We’ll have to wait and see – but rest assured, everyone is feeling the burn.

Here’s a training diary from Mike, member of the Blue half of the Santas:

‘Cut me open and I bleed Liverpool red’ – so said Steven Gerrard when pledging his allegiance to his boyhood club; as we’ll see on Sunday, however, there are two colours in Liverpool vying for supremacy, and I’ll be representing the blue half of town when I run in this year’s Santa Dash. As a Man United supporter running in Liverpool, I felt duty-bound to wear the lesser-known blue Santa outfit in order to show solidarity with the Evertonian side of the city, and I’ve been in intensive training to prepare myself for the big day.

Mike limbers up for training (not in a blue suit...)

Preparation started in earnest when I bought some new trainers a couple of weeks ago, and since then I’ve been pounding the tarmac of the Blackpool suburbs in order to achieve peak physical fitness. I even dug out an old Santa outfit in order to acclimatise myself to the conditions I’ll be facing on race day, which I hope will give me a decisive advantage as the finish line approaches. (I’m only wearing a red one for training purposes – I’ll be in blue on the day!)

There might not be many mince pies left in Liverpool since Andy Carroll moved down from Newcastle, but we’ll be hungry for victory in what promises to be a keenly contested derby. As Steven Gerrard might say, we’ll be taking it one step at a time and giving it 110 per cent, and, y’know, hopefully getting a result at the end of the day.

Hopefully this isn't a picture of things to come...

Apart from demonstrating the superiority of teams in blue, what we really want to achieve is to raise money for our work with looked-after children and young people. All donations will go towards an adventure holiday in the Lake District for the young people in care who we read with, and a mystery day out after Christmas. If you’d like to contribute to this good cause and help our valuable work with children, then please visit our fundraising page here. Thanks!

Everything you can give will really help support looked-after children.

Santa Dash: how you can support our runners

As you may know, twelve TRO staff will be pulling on their red and blue Santa suits, scrapping it out to reach the finish line first (all in a very friendly manner – of course) and taking part in the Santa Dash 2011 in just over a week’s time – all to support The Reader Organisation’s vital ongoing work reading with looked-after children and young people.

To do it, they need your help! Over to the Blues team manager Niall…

If you like the idea of helping us fund raise for a holiday next year for looked after children, you can download this poster and very kindly forward it on to your contacts. Or you could publicise our run and what we are fundraising for on Facebook or Twitter – that way even if you can’t give anything to this magnificent cause you can still do your part. Or if you can make a donation you can do so here.  If you have any queries or questions whatsoever please don’t hesitate to contact The Reader Organisation’s fundraising team on 0151 207 7207.

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It really is a wonderful cause and everything will go towards giving these children a very special day to remember. So whatever you can give to support our Santa Dashers will be very much appreciated.

The Reader’s Derby

Now, as we all know, the Santa Dash we’re about to run is supposed to be all Christmassey and that, and Christmas isn’t a time for, oh let’s say – petty rivalries. Well that has kind of gone out the window now that we have six red Santas and six blue Santas! What was that? Sounds a bit like a Merseyside derby? Well, we are wearing the colours, even though we’re not playing the beautiful game.

In the red corner hailing all the way from Stanley Park… The lean, the mean Liverpool machine:

Chris C (team manager) National Development Manager, Chrissie H Project Worker, Michelle B Receptionist , Jen T Communications Manager, Zoe G Business Manager, Eamee B Wirral Apprentice.

And in the blue corner, hailing all the way from Gladys Street in Everton. It’s Everton’s School of Science Hard-knocks:

Niall G (team manager) Community Development Assistant, Sophie P Assistant Development Manager, Anna F Young Person Project Worker, Charlotte W Hope Reader in Residence,Mike B Former Communications intern,Frank S The Husband of our Events Manager.

I’ve always wanted to be a football manager – and I am aware this isn’t quite football but I’m still partial to the odd Alex Ferguson-esque insult or ‘mind game’ as they call it in football. Here goes:

“Chris, you and that team are going down!”

Wow, that felt good.

Just to be clear, we are running to raise money for a holiday and a day out for the looked-after children we read with next year.  Please do your bit to help make this special thing happen for these children by donating here, it’s really easy.