French writer and keen traveller Xavier de Maistre once wrote a book called Nocturnal Expedition Round My Room. The point of it was to notice all the ‘ordinary’ things around him that he overlooked when planning trips further afield.
In one scene, he looks up at the night sky from the window and muses, “How few people are right now taking delight in this sublime spectacle which the sky lays on uselessly for dozing humanity.”
This appreciation of our immediate surroundings has been noted by many during lockdown. Like it or not, we haven’t been able to move beyond them, which has encouraged us to see them afresh – often, as it happens, while we are out taking exercise.
As one of the few activities possible over the last few months, exercise and fitness routines have been pushed to the top of many of our agendas; not only can they be done in our own back yard, but they have been keeping many of us sane.
Combining these two elements, the Head Boy and Head Girl of King’s College Madrid, Nicholas Poole-Warren Balsera and Victoria Araujo Silva, have come up with an exciting initiative to substitute the long-running and popular annual Summer Fair.
With an ‘around the world’ distance target, which has already been reached at 44,563 kilometres, the pair have got the ball rolling on a sponsored walk/run/cycle in our own neighbourhoods with the aim of raising money for the schools’ favourite charities, a job the Summer Fair usually performs with spectacular success.
“Our Head Boy, Nicholas, came up with the initial idea,” says Victoria, who explains that this is the first sponsored event of its kind at King’s.
“It originally came to me because I was running myself and I knew of companies and organisations who were doing things like this, and I thought we could try to do it at school as well,” says Nicholas.
The idea was enthusiastically received by the Head Scholar, Heads of the Student Council and Head Teacher, Mr Taylor, and started to gather momentum. “It has been great to see how something extremely small ended up becoming a whole project, involving teachers, carers, staff members, students, families, friends and alumni, all from the three King’s College schools in Madrid!” says Victoria.
When everything is pared down to the bare essentials, it seems that exercise becomes a lifeline. Surveys in countries such as Spain and the UK have found that the general surge in fitness routines means that many are pumped to join a gym when circumstances allow.
“The pandemic has changed the way we engage with activity and it will continue to do so as we begin the gradual journey towards a new normal as more sport and leisure facilities open up,” says Lisa O’Keefe, Sport England’s executive director.
According to Criteo consumer data, the sale of exercise bands rocketed by 504% in the UK during lockdown compared to January while in Spain the sale of sporting goods in general has leapt by more than 900%, according to a survey carried out by consumer firm, Groupon.
King’s College has been ahead of this trend with sports teachers coming up with a myriad of fun and innovative ways of keeping fit, often bringing the entire family together for work out sessions and challenges.
Intelligently, the King’s Around the World challenge is taking this one step further and capitalising on the current zeal. “Some people have definitely decided to make an effort to take part, forcing themselves to swim or go for a run more often, but many did that anyway,” says Nicholas.
The King’s Around the World goal is to raise €10,000 from donations and sponsorship. “We had the idea of raising just under half the amount raised in the Summer Fair last year –26.334€,” says Nicholas. “This is proving to be a big challenge. We definitely need help promoting and getting people to donate. The money will be distributed equally amongst Bomberos Ayudan, ANAR, Porque Viven, and Nyumbani.”
A King’s Around the World webpage has been set up so that all participants can log their kilometres, which they are advised to count using an app, and donations can be made.
“People are going for walks and measuring them, or they are logging the distance they have covered during their run,” says Victoria who adds, “Little children are cycling and scooting, and we even have teachers swimming! Some of our parents are participating too now and we hope many more will follow their lead! We tried to make it as family-friendly as possible and as inclusive as we could, bearing in mind that anyone can participate, no matter the age.”
So far, possibly due to the challenging times we find ourselves in, donations are still some way off target. “I think that the challenge we are facing at the moment is related to the donations, since plenty of people are logging in their kilometres – which is lovely to see! – but are forgetting to donate, which is another of the main aims of the project itself,” says Victoria. “Hopefully it’s a matter of time, and once things stabilise, more people will have a think and maybe consider participating and donating to our school charities too!”
Until the Summer Fair is back on the map, it is a great way of giving, celebrating the fact that whatever the circumstances, we can adapt! “It is definitely different. A completely new challenge set by the Kings College Community,” says Nicholas. “We hope a variation of this might turn into an annual event. Our Student Council has been trying to organise a charity run around the school grounds, so that might become a tradition when we are all allowed back to school!”
Donations can be made at http://kingsaroundtheworld.site/