Have you ever made a decision and thought:

“Future me is going to look back at this moment and wonder what on earth I was doing”?

That’s exactly how I felt when, early on in my role as Community Fundraiser at NICE, I committed to my 2022 Great Birmingham Run challenge: 13.1 miles dressed as a very ridiculous-looking NICE biscuit.

A little context – our charity NICE has a mascot outfit called the NICE biscuit (get it?) which lives down the corridor from the fundraising office. It was only a matter of time before I tried it on…

If I’m honest, common-sense didn’t get a look in. There was a giant confectionery costume and I already had a place booked at the event – how could I say no?

Taking a leap of faith and throwing yourself into a task that’s exciting, silly, overwhelming – or a bit of all three – is a big part of what I love about community fundraising. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t see or hear about a charity supporter doing something amazing and inspiring.

NICE works alongside with people with movement disorders like Cerebral Palsy, MS and Parkinson’s. I’m privileged to see the children and adults who use our services work hard every day and make incredible progress. I’d like to join their efforts and make my own small contribution too with this challenge –all to raise awareness and as much money as I can for our charity.

So how am I getting on? I’m writing this a week before the big day, which means I’ve done all the real prep. Here’s how I’ve found it and some tips if you’re thinking of taking on a fundraising challenge yourself:

Make a plan and take it day by day

A big challenge feels overwhelming if you try to take it all in at once and skip to where you need to be at the end of your training. It’s really important to give yourself time to plan ahead and think what you’ll need to do to be ready on the day.

For me, that meant creating a 12 week plan to slowly increase how much running I was doing every week. There are loads of great online guides to follow (Runners World and the Great Run event organisers are normally my go to) but it can still be tricky to stay motivated and not lose heart if you find a particular run difficult or miss some when life gets in the way.

Over the years I’ve found a few ways to keep myself (mostly) on track with training:

• Build it into your routine – I’m lucky enough that I’m able to run home from work which is a great way to stop me from dodging training in the evening once I’m tired and sat on the sofa (I’m really not a morning person so pre-work training was never an option!)

• Put in some milestones along the way – a big one for me was to run at Cannon Hill Parkrun in costume! This gives you a sense of achievement as you go so your only reward isn’t the final event

• Add extra incentives – I decided to ‘give myself’ £1 towards every run I completed (this can go towards your fundraising or save up to get yourself a treat)

Share your story

Once I made up my mind to run as a biscuit I knew it would help to go public. A great way to get some support and make it harder to back out!

I changed my Instagram handle to @nicebiscuitrunner and started posting regularly to keep everyone updated as I slowly picked up the miles and ran with weights and extra layers to prepare for the eventual half-marathon slog.

As something of an introvert, I totally get why people feel embarrassed to put themselves out there with their fundraising challenges. But honestly I think friends, family and even strangers enjoy seeing something positive in their news feeds so my advice is to not over-think it. You’ll also receive some brilliant messages of support.

Don’t underestimate how generous and supportive people will be

My highlight so far was definitely running 5k at Cannon Hill Parkrun in full NICE biscuit costume. I’ve never had so many people smile, laugh and cheer me on! Yes, the biscuit puns were terrible, but it was such a lovely and positive atmosphere, it’s pretty much made the whole thing worth it. And people I’d never met before were incredibly kind with their donations.

So that’s what I’ll finish with. If you’re thinking about taking on a fundraising challenge – go for it! It’s not all plain sailing but I have no regrets and have already made some fantastic memories. I can’t wait for the big day. Wish this biscuit luck!

James McEvoy,

Community Fundraiser

James, dressed as the NICE biscuit at Cannon Hill Parkrun