I am not an uncharitable person. Honestly. I give money to a few charities each month, and I am a sucker for any mailshot that includes a picture of anyone looking sad or brave, even if it is a donkey. I also project complex emotions onto donkeys, which is a sure sign of not being a Grinch. But several times every year, the park I walk through to get into town is commandeered by fun-runners. This is the least accurate description of them which it is possible to give, since they never look like they are having very much fun, grimacing and sweating in equal measure. And, God knows, they're ensuring that no one else in the park can have fun either.
They take over the paths, running in packs, five-wide. Their sanctimonious juggernaut pulverises any dog walkers, buggy pushers, walking commuters or even rogue joggers who think they, too, might be entitled to use the paths they use every other day of the year. How dare we? Can't we see there are people running five kilometres? For charity? Like heroes might do?
And if the runners are holier-than-thou (which they are: there are actual saints who would come up short compared with them), they are nothing compared with the stewards. They bark at children and old people alike to clear the way for the morally superior fun-runners. They entirely confirm my long-held belief that anyone in a fluorescent tabard is only a small swastika away from total moral collapse.
I would like it to go on record that I will willingly sponsor people to raise money for charity while not being grotesquely self-satisfied. Although, clearly, this money is never going to leave my wallet, since fun-runners know no other way. Perhaps they are having fun – self-righteousness is a delicious emotion, after all.
I find this kind of enforced charity – which so systematically grits its teeth and jams the fun into fundraising – deeply off-putting. And I'm afraid I blame the ever-increasing popularity of the fun run on Sport Relief, with its cheery suggestion to run a mile for charity.
I know they are raising money for a good cause, and I know I am basically the Ebeneezer Scrooge of jogging for hating them. But couldn't everyone be charitable without being so public about it? Must they clog up all the parks and TV schedules with their springy feet and money-raising zeal? I can handle Eddie Izzard, who once ran 43 marathons in 51 days for Sport Relief, since he ran alone, without hundreds of fun-runners in tow. Cars simply drove around him, and waved their encouragement. And David Walliams, God love him, had the good grace to swim his miles through sewage-infested water, like a gentleman would.
If everyone could take a leaf out of their books and do their charitable works where it doesn't annoy me, that would be lovely. To make things easier for you, I shall be in hiding for this whole weekend. So try not to run into me, would you?