Video games might be fun, but they’re not only a form of entertainment.
They can bring us together, allow us to experience the world through another’s eyes, and open us to new ways of thinking. Several charities which believe in this too, and I’m proud to support those on the gaming for good page through volunteering and live streams
SpecialEffect is a UK-based charity which aims to put fun and inclusion back in the lives of people with physical disabilities by helping them to play video games. Using technology ranging from modified joypads to eye-control software, they find a way for everyone to play to the very best of their abilities. This isn’t just done for enjoyment though: by levelling the playing field, they’re bringing families and friends together and having a profoundly positive impact on quality of life.
I’ve supported SpecialEffect since meeting the team at the EGX expo in September 2013. Seeing examples of their amazing work inspired me to sign up for the first ever GameBlast streaming marathon in February 2014 and then shortly afterwards, I became a volunteer for the charity too. I’m still doing this eight years later for several reasons. It gives you a real boost doing something for a wonderful cause, and volunteering is a great way of reminding me that I can manage large social situations despite feeling anxious.
Something else I do for the organisation is take part in the ASICS London 10K. The event takes place in July every year and sees thousands of participants hit the roads of the city, running past iconic sites to live bands while spectators cheer them on. I’m not the best runner and I’m never going to be particularly fast, but I’ve always enjoyed taking part in the race due to its upbeat atmosphere and the fact that so many people take part to support their favourite charity.
I’d love to be able to participate in the ASICS London 10K in future years so I’ll be signing up with SpecialEffect for 2022 again
After managing to persuade friend-of-the-blog Phil to sign up with me and training for the 2020 event, it was sadly cancelled due to the COVID lockdown. We both understood that this was necessary action to keep everybody safe but couldn’t hide our disappointment after six months of running together. It was therefore exciting to hear the London 10K would be returning in 2021 and that 180 SpecialEffect supporters were pulling on their trainers for the race on 25 July 2021.
Although I could have travelled into the city and participated in person, I didn’t feel quite ready for such a large-scale event after spending the past 18-months in lockdown. Restrictions may have now been eased here in the UK but I’d rather take a cautious approach; and on top of this, engineering works on the trains would have meant an incredibly long journey with only one person allowed to accompany me. I therefore opted to be a part of the virtual team and instead complete the distance in my local area.
That ‘local area’ for me was the treadmill at the bottom of my garden. To get into the spirit though, I’d mapped out the official route the day before so I could run on the same virtual roads as everybody else. After dragging myself out of bed early on Sunday morning and joining in with the #TeamVirtual video call to get us all started with a pre-run warm-up, I headed down to my machine shortly after 09:00 and spent the next 90 minutes completing the London 10K through the scenes of Google Maps.
And it was tough – probably the toughest event I’ve taken part in so far. It’s so much easier to stick to a training plan when someone is going through it with you, and not having Phil by my side meant I probably wasn’t as strict on myself as I should have been. On top of this the threat of thunderstorms made for a horribly muggy morning with only warm breezes. Even with the doors wide open, the temperature in the room reached 30-degrees and it was a struggle to keep cool.
The main reason for the difficulty however was completing the race on my own. The atmosphere is the best thing about being at the London 10K in person and there’s no way you can recreate that on a treadmill. When you’re there, you get swept along in the crowd and spectators; and flowing with the other runners makes you forget about your tired legs and sore feet. The organisers also put massive spray machines along the route so you can run through the mist, which feels amazing – Pete squirting me with a water bottle wasn’t the same, although it was appreciated.
I managed to complete 13.13K in 01:35 hours, the extra distance being added to account for a walking warm-up and extremely long cool-down. Like I mentioned above, I’m never going to be a fast runner and there’s no way I’m ever going to manage the 29:25 minutes scored by winner Andrew Heyes; but I don’t think this was a bad time for me though and overall, I’m satisfied with it. My goal has always been to complete the 10K in under an hour, but I have doubts about ever being able to achieve this on a treadmill due to the reasons described in this post.
I’d love to be able to participate in the ASICS London 10K in future years so I’ll be signing up with SpecialEffect again in 2022. Check out the gaming for good page for information about the charity, and keep your eyes peeled for the GameBlast tag for news on what we’ve got planned for the next marathon stream.