Darren Arulvasagam, our Head of Strategy & Partnerships is running the 2020 London Marathon - raising money for Christians Against Poverty.
You can follow his progress as well as donate on this page. He is in the process of changing his online giving partner and will update it here soon.
Year to date running total: 275 miles covered & 21,919 feet of elevation gain (I’ve climbed the equivalent of 75% of Mt. Everest without having left the South West!)
Regular readers will know that I secured a charity place in this year’s London Marathon, running for my other employer, Christians Against Poverty. As the marathon was originally scheduled to take place on April 26th , I started my training regime last October, first getting used to being out 3 – 4 times a week and then gradually increasing the miles and my stamina in order to be able to complete a half marathon in Bideford (North Devon) on March 8th. It was an exhilarating experience, held in true South West conditions, starting with icy torrential rain, then strong wind, followed by beautiful sunshine. I managed the 13.1 miles with relative ease – i.e. no injuries, I didn’t finish last and even managed a bit of a prolonged spurt for the last 2 miles. I crossed the line strangely feeling like I didn’t need to collapse at the end but instead felt I could have carried on further – perhaps meaning I was well on course for the real thing a month later. Sadly it wasn’t to be – in fact only 5 days later, the inevitable news broke that the marathon had been postponed due to the Covid outbreak.
My preparations were now on hold and my biggest decision was whether to call it a day and stop running altogether; ease off for a period and then re-start, or; just find a new normal. My joyful thoughts of throwing my trainers into the bin were quickly dispelled and I used my one hour a day lock down liberation to just keep moving. My running club started a virtual team relay which helped motivation levels and I thoroughly enjoyed the peace and tranquillity plodding around the lanes where I live, hearing the bird song, smelling the wild garlic and seeing the flora and fauna coming into bloom without fear from too many cars. Alongside running, dog walking and cycling with my girls has helped me maintain some semblance of fitness and as I write, I am 16 weeks away from the revised London Marathon date, meaning my 16 week beginner training plan needs to kick in to action again. I heard just yesterday that the Great North Run has been cancelled altogether due to social distancing concerns, so realistically I assume the marathon will go the same way, but there’s always hope! Quite apart from the sense of achievement, charities up and down the land will be affected in terms of sponsorship if things don’t go ahead.
Just like the marathon and my training, both of my job roles have had to adapt. With SWM, you will have read that we had a period of furlough, whilst at Christians Against Poverty, we have developed new methods of supporting our clients. No longer do we meet face to face in client homes, instead we conduct meetings by video and ask clients to upload documents into a secure cloud. This isn’t easy given many of our clients do not possess smart phones or laptops, let alone have data to support video-calling & uploads. That said, we are adapting and continue to offer help and support to those who need it, providing hope and building relationships, just as the SWM team are considering how we can best adapt our proposition to deal with the South West’s “new” normal.
I’ll end this update with a technology fail – back on 8thMarch, primed for my half marathon, I arrived at the start line car park armed with my debit card to pay the parking fee. It was pouring with rain and the queue was long – runners trying to get sorted before the start. The car park was full. Time ticked on. Finally my turn, but the parking machine wouldn’t accept my card – out of order today of all days. I had brought cash, but insufficient for the meter. The pay by phone option wasn’t one of the services I had used before so wasn’t stored on my smart phone. So a faff and 5 mins later, finally the car was legally parked and I could make my way to the start line with the other stragglers – only to find I’d missed the start of the race! It was a good lesson that sometimes technology can help and hinder in equal measure – a one size fits all approach rarely works and being blessed with options can save the day. I soon was able to catch up some of the other runners and then pleasingly was able to be the one overtaking rather than being overtaken.
I’m hopeful this is how SWM will shake up the banking market – we’re getting prepared, we’ll get started and then we’ll soon start overtaking the competition!
The start of the new year normally causes people to make resolutions – get fitter, lose weight, read more, learn a new skill, drink less, etc. Like the rest of you, I’ve been there and got the t-shirt. But this year, I already have my 2020 challenge. I’m running the London marathon in April and I’m beginning to realise the enormity of the task. Having covered few miles in 2019 due to a bad ankle injury, I got started by downloading the BBC’s “couch to 5k” app in November and have just finished the 9 week course. In the office, Annabel and Adrian both raved about it and I can see why. It was a huge blessing as it motivated me to get out at least 3 times a week and literally go from sitting on the couch to running 5k with relative ease.
Progress has been encouraging – from a virtual standstill I’m now able to run 8 miles, I’m following a 16 week “beginners marathon” training plan and am bang on course for the big day. I have entered the Bideford half marathon in March and hope to take part in the Looe 10 miler later this month if I can secure a place. My physio has given me some simple exercises to strengthen my dodgy ankle.. and fix a new complaint in the other leg which had been compensating for the weakness. Our bodies are complicated things! I’ve had my gait analysed by the club captain of my local running club and he has taught me how to run more efficiently – all with the goal of completing the London course. The basics are in place, it’s now the slog to increase the miles, keep up the exercise and just maybe improve my diet.
The parallels with our journey to become a bank continue to show themselves. Over the past couple of months we have engaged with potential technical partners, talked to potential investors, refined our customer and product propositions and conducted some in-depth target market research. We’re putting the building blocks in place in order to make it to the start line.
I’m running to raise money for my part time employer – Christians Against Poverty, a debt advice charity. Many of my clients are being affected by punitive overdraft charges and branches disappearing from our rural high streets. SWM really could be an answer to help people caught in these situations. Over the past few weeks, I have been able to support my first client in becoming debt free and work with another who has been at risk of having his home repossessed. It’s vital and rewarding work.
You can support me by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I split my week, working three days for SWM and two days for a charity called Christians Against Poverty (CAP). Modern poverty is real, with millions locked in its miserable grip. CAP help people who have often suffered multiple life traumas. Family illness, bereavement, relationship breakdown and poor mental health are some of the causes that can trigger an unstoppable spiral into debt and poverty. Nationally, 37% tell us they were afraid to leave the house before they got help from CAP whilst 35% have considered or attempted suicide as a way out of debt. You can find out more about CAP at www.capuk.org .
I run a CAP debt centre which is a free, non-profit making service funded by donations and grants. This new centre is a partnership between a group of local churches in and around Liskeard & Looe in Cornwall - it started helping people in April 2019, the same month that I started working for SWM.
We help people by giving advice on budgeting & money management, taking over contact with their creditors and working towards them becoming debt free. In my first few months, clients have told me how their outlook has changed by getting control of their situation and having a plan to work with going forward. One young family were living with their curtains permanently closed, due to the fear of bailiffs. After an afternoon preparing an income and expenditure statement, calling creditors and making arrangements, their three young children are now able to play in their front room in natural light without fear of who might knock at the door. It’s a privilege to play a small part in making lives better.
During the summer I heard that CAP had some charitable entries into the 2020 London marathon. They asked people to apply and said they would award the places to those they thought made a good case to have a place. I have done a little running in the past and was looking for an excuse to get into shape and lose a few pounds, especially after I badly twisted my ankle (running!) back in March. So I entered thinking in all reality they’d never pick me – I never win competitions... CAP called my bluff!
I’ll be pounding the streets of Liskeard this Winter in earnest preparation for the run next April, all in aid of the wonderful work that CAP does. I’ll need to be prepared - I’m going to have to train, watch my diet, find sponsorship, find running buddies, prepare a really long Spotify playlist, get the right running gear, make arrangements for the big day, etc. Oh - and still find time to work two jobs, be a good father/husband/son/friend!
It struck me that preparing for the marathon is quite like our journey in opening a new mutual bank. It will be challenging, exciting and rewarding - and I can’t wait to get started. I’ll keep you updated with my progress via a blog on the website and some regular updates on our social media pages.
If you would like to sponsor Darren's marathon run for Christians Against Poverty then you can do so by emailing him at email@example.com
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