Next month we’re hosting An Audience With event with long distance running stars Paula Radcliffe MBE and Steve Cram CBE. That got me thinking about what these amazing athletes must have had to do to get to the top of their game. And it struck me that you could draw a connection to the experiences of many of our families.
To be the best in the world, Paula and Steve will have had to consider things such as diet, hydration, sleeping patterns and training regimes with military precision. They’ll have had to build their resilience in the face of defeat or disappointment and make massive life choices that affect their friends, family and leisure time. All aimed at achieving peak performance through the highest levels of health, wellbeing and fitness. And all requiring a singular focus, guts and determination. But they would also tell you that they could not have achieved what they did without the support of a team around them to guide, advise and intervene when necessary.
Families caring for children with life-shortening conditions will recognise much of this. They too have strict regimes in place – regimes to ensure the care and prolonged life of their child. For instance, their child may not be able to eat so parents must prepare, provide and monitor a gastro feed device to make their child gets the nutrition they need. Their child may be unable to move unaided, meaning parents have to turn them over frequently during the night. Often, children with life-shortening conditions are very prone to infections, so mum and dad need to be hyper-vigilant – both to the risks of any environment and to spot signs of an infection taking hold.
All of which has a considerable impact on families. The role of a parent merges into that of a carer, often an exhausting commitment and one that is made 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
So this is the connection between elite athletes and our families: endurance, resilience, overcoming barriers, pursuing a regime with a singular focus. But, of course, there’s a huge difference too. For our families, it’s not about achievement, it’s about survival.
Elite athletes have made a choice. They choose the life they pursue to achieve the greatness they seek, pushing themselves to win medals, to beat records, be the best in their field.
The families we work with don’t have a choice. This is the life they’ve been given. They are very resilient, brave, positive … but it’s really hard - like running a marathon uphill every day.
And while elite athletes are able to surround themselves with a team of performance coaches, nutritionists, psychologists and funders, families who use our services often only have us. If we weren’t here, there would be nothing. And we only have enough resources to support around half the local families who could benefit from it.
That’s why we put on events like our ‘An Audience With … Paula Radcliffe and Steve Cram’ evening - to raise the vital funds we need to continue to be the support team for our families.
Interested in finding out what inspires elite athletes like Paula and Steve to go the distance? You can find out more about our An Audience With event here.