The Marathon Man

A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. A man who never reads lives only one.
George R. R. Martin

I have a confession to make. I’m having a hell of a time trying to write something that I hope will be persuasive enough to make you care about someone you don’t know and will never meet.

Back in 2012, I was convinced–okay, I had my arm twisted behind my back and make to pinky swear–to take part in the Muskoka Novel Marathon.

I’ll explain this briefly, because every year I have someone ask me how I train for a run of this magnitude, or how many kilometers the run is, or something else along those lines. So, to be clear. I don’t run. Hell, most of the time I don’t even walk. When I participate in the three-day Novel Marathon, I plant my sorry ass in a chair, apply fingers to keyboard, and I write. I write as much as I can.

I’ve done this four times previously. So, this year marks a half-decade of me participating in this event.

That’s not the important part.

Over the past four years, I’ve raised probably somewhere around $5000 in donations from some incredibly generous people. I’ve done well, because I know awesome people.

But that’s not the important part, either.

That money that I raised, along with the 30-odd other writers, all goes toward Adult Literacy programs for the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka. So, when everyone says something like, Wow, good for you! Three days of writing? That’s tough!

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Colum and his spirit animal.

I disagree. I’m surrounded by a group of other like-minded writers, all supporting each other as we plug away at our stories. There’s an even more dedicated group of volunteers that support us, ensuring we’re fed, we’re warm enough or cool enough, and that we’re happy.

Yeah, I’m in a room for three days in the beautiful town of Huntsville when I could be enjoying the outdoors, but it’s not tough. Not by a long shot.

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The MNM 2015 participants

What’s tough is being an adult, maybe a mother or a father, a husband or wife, and summoning the courage to walk into a building and admit to someone that you can’t read well enough, and need help. That can’t be easy.

It’s likely also not an easy task being one of the people who then help that person to improve their skills enough to do what they want to do. Maybe it’s to better read labels when shopping. Maybe it’s to better read labels on prescriptions. Maybe it’s to read well enough to help their kid with their homework.

It’s doesn’t matter what it’s for. What matters is that their is enough support for these literacy programs when someone comes calling. Because imagine summoning the courage to admit that you can’t read to someone, then being turned away.

It would be like calling 911 and being put on hold.

I’m struggling with this message, because I feel like I’ve said it all before. I could tell you about all the successes I’ve seen by being involved with the MNM. I could tell you about the wonderful woman who was once one of those who needed some help to improve and has now, for the past four years, participated as a writer in the marathon. I could tell you a lot of things. Instead, I’ll just ask a small indulgence: if you’ve read this far, I’ll ask you to stop here, just for a moment and consider…

Did you struggle with any of the words?

Did you wonder at the meaning of the message?

Did you recognize each letter?

Think about that for a moment. Go ahead. I’ll even give you some space to do so.

 

 

 

Now, you’ve likely realized that you take reading for granted. It’s like being able to breathe, to see, to hear. You don’t think about it. You just do it. It’s easy, right?

Not for a large section of people. Well over 40% of Canadians deal with some level of illiteracy.

Imagine if you had to concentrate, to really have to focus on breathing.

And if you feel anything for those that deal with this, I’ll ask you to please consider donating to the cause. You can do that here. Don’t think there’s an amount that’s too small. If you donate, I’m happy, no matter what the amount.

And if you can’t donate at this time, I understand. Each of us has our own causes that are near and dear to us. There’s so many things broken in this world and there’s only so much money to go around. But even if you don’t donate, I appreciate you taking the time to read this far. And if you did read this far, appreciate the gift that someone else gave you.

Because reading is a gift.

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Donate to Tobin here.

Find out more about the Muskoka Novel Marathon here.

Find out more about how the Literacy programs helped one person to write here.

Read my previous blogs about this here (2015), here (2013), and here (2012).