A new email lands in your inbox and you take a look. Before too long you catch on to the real reason behind the “how are yous” and questions about your recent holiday: your friend/colleague/second-cousin-twice-removed wants your cash. They are doing something fantastic to earn it, of course. But then again, so was Sarah who you donated a tenner to last week. It becomes very easy to wish your acquaintances were just a little bit lazier so you could hang on to those wages a little longer.

The worst of it is, I’m one of the people I’m moaning about. And I can only apologise.

But as anyone who’s fundraised before will know, it’s getting more and more difficult to convince people that your challenge is worth coughing up for, and that it would make a big difference to the cause you’re sweating for. These days, it seems everyone is running marathons, risking life and limb on obstacle courses and trekking for hours on end across the length and breadth of Britain.

But earlier this year, I took on something a little different.

In May I met a team of strangers at the airport and boarded a plane for Rwanda, a little country in Africa I knew very little about. By the end of the plane journey, I’d already made friends who six days later I’d be cheering over a finish line – but we had a long journey before we made it to that point.

The week flew by. On day one we visited a genocide memorial, hearing stories of evil on a scale I’d never known. Day two brought healing with a visit to a local church, which was loud and full of joy. That afternoon, we did our first training session in the “land of a thousand hills” – I’m sure they kept that nickname quiet before I signed up… Day three was special – I met the two year old boy I sponsor through Compassion in his home. Shema Prince (what a name!) and his parents welcomed me in and called me a part of the family. The team – joined by other teams from across Europe – ran a sports day for all the local children supported by Compassion on day four, with another training session to loosen those legs. Day five was a rest day. We visited Lake Kivu and took a boat to a private island. Amazing. And then day six arrived…

At 7am I was on the start line, heart banging and legs wobbling. Ahead of me was 13 miles of dirt tracks that lay between me and a medal. Some people had two laps of that to cover. Two mad men were going three times round. I could see the cyclists lined up, too – 120km for those mountain bikes to cover. A couple of members of are group had started hours earlier at 2am – they were attempting the 60km trek. Though we were many, we were one team. I ran alongside other challengers from across Europe, all there to raise money for the projects we had been visiting all week. I couldn’t believe just how special this moment was.

The half marathon was as difficult as it sounds under the hot African sun. I don’t know how the marathon runners did a second lap. I think the ultramarathon runners are crazy. The bikers had to fix broken chains and punctures. I’ve never seen feet like those of the walkers once they’d finished their 60kms. But we all made it. Not a single runner quit and every medal was given out. And that is not down to just the training that went beforehand.

Every person we passed waved, clapped or shouted encouragement. On the final stretch of the course, the noise of the drums at the finish line carried you far quicker than your legs thought they could go. At the after-party, organised for us by the town we were based in, we heard about how they had been preparing for our arrival. For one year they’d been praying for us. They were praying for our safety, for our health and for this almighty challenge we were undertaking. They covered the entire trip is prayer – and boy did God deliver.

We learnt every day of the trip about the generosity of people of Rwanda. Everywhere we went we received – whether it was prayer, food, gifts or a performance. Some may have boarded that plane on day one thinking they were coming to Rwanda to ‘do good’ and save people. I don’t think anyone felt like that on the return flight. I came to understand that however hard the run was, however impressive it sounded, the money I raised was nothing more than a thank you to the people in this amazing area for the way they welcomed me in, taught me to be generous and showed that prayer really does work – whoever’s sending them up. Surely that’s worth a pound or two?

If you fancy a challenge with a difference in 2018, then sign up for the Kenya Muskathlon. Organised by Christian adventure charity 4M, you will be raising money for the projects you visit. Choose a half marathon, marathon, ultramarathon, 60km trek or 120km cycle. You could have the chance to meet your sponsor child, too. Visit the Compassion website to find out more and to sign up.  

There’s still time to sponsor Amaris if you are able to. Visit her fundraising page here.

Written by Amaris Cole // Follow Amaris on  Twitter

Amaris has always wanted to be a journalist. Well, apart from the few years she spent longing to be a spy (she even took a GCSE in Russian as all good spies speak the language, or so her teacher said). She works as Digital Content and Communications Manager for the Church of England, but is sure Mi5 will come knocking soon. Amaris enjoys going to the gym far too much but is able to resist the biscuit tin far too little. Her most embarrassing moment was saying: “No probs” to Prince Charles.

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