Well it has sure been an interesting few months.
And I sure have been wearing a dress a lot.
I have been involved with One Girl’s Do It in a Dress campaign since meeting Chantelle, one of the founders, in Portland back in June. She credits me with being the inspiration behind it, but I think the combination of several drinks and her persuasive abilities should take the real glory. It’s not everybody that could convince me that running a half marathon in a girl’s school uniform was a fantastic idea…
Raising awareness and funds has been a whole lot of fun. I’ve never been involved with something like this before – especially something that required me to make an idiot of myself on such a regular basis – and I’ve enjoyed it so much more than I thought I would.
I got the email one chilly day in July. Apparently several of us were doing a photo shoot in a nearby suburb – playing football, having a beer, shooting a few hoops, that kind of thing. Awesome, sounded like my kind of photo shoot. Then I read the rest of the email. We were doing it in school dresses. Hmmm….
The day dawned bright and clear, and after the initial awkwardness that might be expected when six adults who have never met start hanging out in an inner suburban street in primary school uniforms, we ended up having a lot of fun. The breeze whistling between my legs took a little longer to get used to, mind you. I don’t know how you girls do it…
After an hour or two all of us – including the guys – pretty much forgot that we were even wearing the sexy blue and white numbers. Which made it all the more amusing when random strangers would stop and stare – or shout abuse – as they walked past. Thankfully most of them were too busy checking out the girl’s legs to worry about what the rest of us were doing…
Once the fundraising page was up it was time to start making noise about the campaign. Blog posts, social media love, talking about it at work and telling everyone I knew was great fun, and watching the donations trickle in served to make me even more excited about it. I wore a dress to the pub one Friday night recently, and got some great looks on the tram as the commuters tried to work out just what the hell I was doing.
It was my mission to ensure that everybody around me was well and truly sick of hearing about it. If you were one of those people … well, sorry about that. Kinda. Not really.
As the date of the half marathon loomed I was getting close to my $1000 target, but still had a little way to go. It was time for more significant action, so a few days ago I decided to push the boundaries of casual Friday in the office beyond their breaking point.
The laughter of my workmates was nothing compared to the uncomprehending stares of people in the lift and unsuspecting office workers enjoying the lunchtime sunshine. Still, I guess if you saw somebody walking around CBD looking like this, you’d probably be a little confused as well. Not to mention a little nauseous.
Still, as I wandered around the office rattling a tin and standing at people’s desks until they felt so uncomfortable that they had to donate, the numbers kept adding up. $100 … $200 … $300 … until with a final surge I’d raised nearly $400 by the end of the day. I’d smashed my target figure and – through the generosity of others – five girls in Sierra Leone are going to get an education next year that they otherwise wouldn’t have had.
And that is simply awesome.
And so all that was left was actually doing it. Donning the dress one last time, lining up at the start line and putting one foot in front of the other for 21.1km. The weather forecast was horrible, but thankfully as I woke up on race day the rain had been and gone and the sun was even trying to make a half-hearted appearance.
With a roar (and laughter) from the crowd the three of us in school dresses joined 8997 others and made our way past several Melbourne landmarks, in varying degrees of pain. I was moved by the number of other runners who clapped me on the back or shouted out words of encouragement as we passed each other – having a banner explaining what I was doing on my back helped a lot. The spectators got into the spirit as well, and that really made a difference.
Despite the wind and occasional flurry of rain, it ended up being a surprisingly enjoyable run. No chafing, no injuries and even a semi-respectable time of 1:50.45. That’s only seven minutes slower than the time a much fitter, non-dress-wearing Dave ran it in two years ago, so I’m pretty damn happy with that.
At the end of the day, though, it’s not about me.
It’s about girls in Africa who will get an education and change the world.
A bit of discomfort and a bit of embarrassment is a pretty small price to pay to help achieve that, I reckon.
If you’ve already donated, the girls and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts. If not, then it’s not too late – the campaign runs through until the end of the month and there’s still a way to go to hit the overall total. It would be fantastic if you could help change a girl’s life as well.