In a month, I'll be zip-lining 225m above the streets of London – here's why
I’ll start with a quick introduction. My name’s Craig, I’m from East Lothian in Scotland, and I’m a reporter for the Metro.
If you ever check bylines – don’t worry, I know you probably don’t – you might have seen mine in the paper you’ve picked up on your commute to work, or more often on the website you’re reading just now.
Among the daily news paraphernalia that I usually take on, I’ve written about topics as diverse as the diagnosis of bipolar; the decriminalisation of drugs; the threat of the Houses of Parliament burning down; and the quest to track down the oldest dog in the world.
(That last one got me an invitation to the 31st birthday party of Bobi, the longest-lived dog in history – he’s still going strong three months on.)
Outside of work, I read, visit the cinema or go along to the occasional pub quiz. I’m not what you would call a sporty person. You would never, ever, see me donning a pair of running shorts and going for a jog down the street.
Until this time last month.
If you’ve been around the Emirates Stadium in North London recently, and have spotted a very sweaty man repeatedly climbing the stairs with an expression that suggests he regrets ever responding to that email from his assistant editor… that’ll have been me.
But what powers me up those stairs is the knowledge that I’ve got a good reason for doing so. I’m currently in training for a very unique (although some might say bonkers) event, in support of a very worthy cause.
On July 4, the aforementioned assistant editor Claie sent an email around the Metro office, with an offer to sign up for an event. When I cast my eyes over it, there was one line that caught my eye: ‘zipwire from the roof of The Leadenhall Building across London’s skyline into The Gherkin’.
Wow! I thought. Just like the bank robbers at the start of the Dark Knight. That sounds nuts – I’ll put my name in the hat and see what happens.
The next day, Claie got back to me. She said that my name was the only one in the hat. It was a very big hat with a single strip of paper in it, and on that paper was written ‘Craig Munro’.
How could this be? I read over the email again. Ah, there’s the full sentence – ‘A tower run up 42 floors of The Cheesegrater before a zipwire from the roof of The Leadenhall Building across London’s skyline into The Gherkin.
So, this would be the first physical challenge of my life. I’ve never so much as taken part in a Parkrun before, but I’d signed myself up for a run up the stairs of the sixth tallest skyscraper in the capital.
Since then, I’ve shunned every possible escalator on the London Underground in favour of the steps (if they exist) and have even gone for a quick jog before breakfast. I hardly recognise myself anymore.
It’s all worth it, though, because I’m doing it in support of an extraordinary charity – one called Tommy’s that’s been changing and saving lives for three decades.
Here’s a fact I didn’t know until last week. At the moment, one in four pregnancies in the UK are lost. It’s a staggering figure, made all the more awful by the fact that miscarriage and stillbirth are things many of us just want to avoid discussing.
Tommy’s, the UK’s largest pregnancy and baby loss charity, is taking on this statistic from three angles.
Its research teams, based in three national centres around the country, are doing vital work to help prevent the issues that can affect a pregnancy. A fourth centre, focusing on preterm births, is opening in autumn.
Its dedicated team of midwives, who work for both the NHS and Tommy’s, run a helpline dispensing invaluable advice via email and telephone. Together, they answer around 5,000 queries every year.
And its policy team, working with the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity (Sands) work hard to get the recommendations of the researchers into national healthcare guidelines. Recently, they got progesterone – a medication that could save an estimated 8,500 babies a year – prescribed as part of NICE guidelines.
Jacqui Clinton, the fundraising director for Tommy’s, told me: ‘Lots of people will still say, “You can just try again”, or “It’s just one of those things”.
‘The thing that we really have to fight against in terms of awareness is that people don’t think anything can be done, but actually, we’ve shown after the past 30 years that quite a lot can be done to improve outcomes and to improve care.’
Tommy’s commits about £500,000 to each of their research centres every year, and its helpline costs around £200,000 annually to run.
My daft skyscraper challenge next month is just that – a daft challenge. But the work that Tommy’s does is so important, and is making a tangible difference.
If you’re able to, please do send some money their way. It’s a very easy process on their website, which you can find here. And I’ll see you, 225 metres above the City of London’s streets, on September 9.
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