An Epic Journey

Some reflections about the epic journey that the 10 City Bridge Run has taken to date.

This is written by Matt Jones, who initiated this activity in August 2010 after another event in 2009. Matt has become somewhat of a reluctant leader in all of this, realising that he must lead despite all of the challenges it presents.

This initiative was initially scheduled to take place commencing in early September 2010, and was subsequently delayed because insufficient funding was received to complete the journey. The risk to commence and not finish was considered too great at the time.

The initiative was delayed again and again in the latter part of 2010, and finally when the ‘last safe date’ to commence in 2010 arrived, my body had become broken from overtraining. I couldn’t even run to catch a bus at that time. That ‘last safe date’ was 11 November 2010, which was also the start date for the G20 in Seoul, and would have meant completing the run along the banks for the frozen Han River in Seoul in December 2010. Any day later, and I would have been running over Christmas, and come the beginning of 2011 I found that I was still not physically recovered to commence the run.

By April 2011, I was again fit enough to commence running, but because I had committed so much time to trying to start this initiative in 2010, I found myself in a disturbing position of my own poverty at that time. A ridiculous situation.

I determined not to fail the confidence which the many supporters had already entrusted me with by giving up, and it was not realistic to commence the initiative in 2011 despite my best intentions for a range of reasons. It is a wake-up call.

I went back into training, having learnt many lessons. I was stronger for it.

Towards the middle of 2012, I thought the time was right, and so launched a second round of crowdfunding, this time through the crowdfunding platform Pozible. I was successful in reaching my minimum target to prove the idea, although at the end of that process found myself in a position where I was not ready to go. I had underestimated the scale of what I was proposing, and if I had started then it might have resulted in wasted effort even if I had completed the journey itself.

I sought the advice of a trusted mentor. He gave me some sage advice from his experience as a leader along the lines of: “if when it comes time to undertake something as the leader, and in yourself you know you are not ready, then don’t do it. People will understand.” I took his advice to heart, not cancelling the journey, but postponing it to a date when I was ready. That was a difficult decision for me to make, and I felt like it was as close to an admission to failure as I wanted to come with this initiative.

All of these delays seem to fly in the face of the advice from Steve Jobs to just “Ship it!”. It was also Steve Jobs I think who offered the advice that: “if you weren’t embarrassed when you first shipped, then you waited too long.” Well, I was embarrassed, and I found myself extended far beyond what I felt comfortable.

I kept training, anticipating a commencement date of February 2013, and then a few days before the New Year, I tore my calf muscle badly in the surf at Bondi Beach. That was a real set-back. My running coach, Coach Bob Williams from Portland, Oregan, suggested that I visit the earlier intention I had to run the entire 10 sub-marathons all within a compressed time frame. That gave me some space to look to the future with a fresh perspective of how this ought to be conducted.

I had intended to ReLaunch the 10 City Bridge Run earlier in 2013, but was not ready to do so. It is a hard thing to describe, but this draws a lot of personal commitment, and the need to dig deep has been felt.

I was fortunate to attend an extraordinary gathering of 100 ‘best and brightest’ leaders in UK during March 2013 of a two-part conference called the Commonwealth Study Conference (known by its shorter acronym CSCLeaders) through London, Glasgow and Oxford. A theme of ‘leading beyond authority’ and the role of bridge builders in our extended community was discussed in depth. I met inspiring people, many of whom came from countries where child mortality occurs at catastrophic levels. Their input, especially from among the women I met, was as significant as it was instructive. Part-two of the conference  occurred in Mumbai in early June, but I was unable to attend, and so will pick up the gathering next year.\

Four significant influences emerged as a result of my experience in the UK:

1. A focus away from child mortality as the key issue, but rather seeking to improve child survival. Everyone loves to share a good news story.

2. We define child survival as focusing not only on health, but also on education and freedom. We believe that child survival is a holistic measure. The issues of health and infrastructure to address the immediate incidence of child mortality are important to address. There in an intertwined relationship between maternal and child health. We recognise that there is compelling evidence that points to a strong correlation between the level of education among women and improved rates of child survival. Freedom might seem to be an extraneous consideration beyond health and education, but what quality of life is offered for a child beyond the age of five if only to be condemned to the likelihood of child labour or prostitution? A focus inclusive of education and freedom doesn’t take away from the immediacy of health needs, but rather concern for the welfare of young girls and their mothers will lead to greater concern for the survival of infants and young children where the need is at its greatest.

3. We are asking “what would this look like if women held the answers?” I was profoundly influenced by women I met at the recent CSCLeaders conference from across Africa, India, Pakistan, other parts of Asia and the Pacific. The efforts that are being made in their communities provide inspirational stories which demand attention, and sharing these would benefit other communities around the world. Most importantly, these proven interventions along with stories of what didn’t work described by women provide ways where anyone from around the world can get involved to making a difference, even if that is only by sharing information through social media. Every mother, regardless of where they live, will have something to contribute on a conversation about shaping child survival, and this is a resource well worth listening too. The design forum will be framed to ask “What would this look like if women held the answers?”

4. We are leveraging the considerable network the Commonwealth. Around 40% of child deaths occur in only three Commonwealth countries alone (India, Pakistan, Nigeria). For many people, the Commonwealth has an unclear purpose in this emerging Asian century with the primacy of organisations like APEC, EAS, G20 and UN. The Commonwealth does remain a valuable resource to draw upon to convene action, and so we should not let that go redundant. Eight of the countries where running will occur are members of the Commonwealth (Australia, India, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and United Kingdom). The United States and Angola make up the other two countries, representing how the Commonwealth is capably able to engage with other institutions and countries with both the capacity to influence (United States) as well as with those countries suffering under the problem itself (Angola has the second highest incidence of child mortality following Sierra Leone).

That is a snapshot of what this epic journey has delivered to date. I am still deliver on any of the project, but it is developing in a positive direction.

Is the seemingly impossible possible? No one will know unless we try. Join us. Help us to build the life bridge to share best practice for child survival.

Harambee! It won’t be the same without you!

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