Great North Run barefoot runner John McBride will be running harder than ever this year after travelling to Kenya with aid agency CAFOD where he met the people he is raising money for.
John, 47, a Newcastle Council worker from Consett, returned from an emotional trip to Kenya on Sunday [12th] after spending five days in the African country visiting projects supported by CAFOD. John was able to keep up his tough training schedule however, as he was put through his paces at high altitude up in the beautiful Ngong hills above Nairobi by a group of reformed Pokot warriors, whose lives have been turned around by running.
John has completed the Great North Run 13 times for CAFOD. In the last two he has run the last mile barefoot in solidarity with those in poor countries where shoes are a luxury.
John, a member of Derwentside Athletics Club, said: “The idea to run the last mile of the Great North Run barefoot was to make the point that many people in the developing world can’t afford shoes, let alone trainers; they go without and so I did too. This year I think my last mile will be very slow and very emotional as I will be thinking about the people I met and carrying them in my heart.”
“Many of them not only go without shoes, they go without food, clean water, a means to feed their children, how would that make you feel? Children go without an education, and many go without hope. I saw people on the edge of life and this is just not acceptable. These children are just as important as our own children.
“It really struck home that what we do here in the UK does make a huge difference. I realised that every penny donated is not just a nice gesture, it’s that the people it goes to truly need it to survive. I saw the difference CAFOD and its partners make, not only in providing these basics, but also giving hope, smiles and a future.
“One thing everyone I met didn’t go without however is strength and dignity and the ability to turn their lives around once they have the support and opportunity to do so. One of the young runners I trained with turned his back on violence after finding running through a peace scheme and hopes to take part in the London 2012 Olympic Games. He and the others I ran with are now being trained by GNR favourite and marathon world record holder Paul Tergat, who I hope to meet at this year’s GNR.
“The people I met have really inspired me to continue my support for CAFOD and raise awareness of the dire and unnecessary poverty that people have to live in. I’m also determined to be happier about life. I was overwhelmed by the generosity and warmth the people showed, and no matter how harsh their life and how little they had they were the first to offer a cup of tea with an open heart and a smile. I saw an awful lot of joy amidst the heartache and that’s a lesson I’ve learnt from them.”
John travelled to Kenya with CAFOD’s manager for Hexham and Newcastle Anne-Marie Hanlon. They visited rural Kenya to meet a Maasai community whose lives are severely affected by continuing drought to find out how money given to CAFOD is helping the residents to cope and adapt to the changing climate. John and Anne-Marie also visited an HIV/AIDS programme in Thika, which ensures people living with HIV can continue to earn a living and live a fulfilled life, as well as supporting children who have been orphaned through AIDS. They then travelled to the second largest slum in Kenya, Korogocho, to visit CAFOD’s partner the St John’s Sports Society, who give hope to young people through sport.
Anne-Marie said: “I’m so delighted John was able to travel with CAFOD and meet the people he has been supporting for all these years. It was a challenging, emotional and life-changing experience but also full of hope and joy. John has really gone that extra mile for CAFOD this time. We’re so lucky in the North East that the parishes, schools and individuals that support us are so committed to helping CAFOD achieve its aim of ending poverty and fighting for justice for the poorest. John has now seen for himself that his and others’ efforts really do change lives and he’ll be able to talk about his experiences at schools and parishes around the North East to raise awareness of these issues.”