I walked to work today, my bag weighed a couple of kilos, no-one cheered me to my destination, no-one even looked up; it's a different week now; the marathons are completed but the fight goes on.
Sunday (17 April 2011) was potentially the worst but ultimately one of the very best days of my life. At about five miles it felt as though my right calf was going to explode. Terry looked around hearing my groans and just nodded that fearful expression of his. 'Stop being a blouse Paul' he rasped, 'there's no way you are quitting now.' Thankfully the pain retreated into a dull ache, morphing with all the other anatomical fall-out from putting over a hundred miles through a 48 year old body. Was it worth it? Yes. Are tigers worth it? You know the answer to that.
Last year, as I cantered (relative term) along the Mall I realised that I had left quite a lot of emotional DNA on the course. Quite how the original idea got multiplied is lost in the sands of time but the genesis of this exodus (been waiting years to write that) germinated on the wet pavements of SW19 as I plodded out the miles last year. Fortunately it was supported wholeheartedly by the team here and germinated throughout the winter months.
There are always pitfalls: strained hamstrings, hernias and illness are part of the territory. The unholy trinity of bureaucracy, complicity and corruption in India makes nothing easy either. Their ludicrously inaccurate census figures last month are the latest insult to anyone concerned with the tigers' welfare and the species itself. However, every time I get disheartened I think of those striped memories, those moments when first timers see their first tiger knowing it will be indelibly scorched onto their memory. It will always be worth it. I also think of those saints who defy the cynics and criminals and continue to look after all endangered species.
Now then some thanks (in no particular order): Ben, for backing this and monstering the Manchester course and putting up with me for three days up north. Andrew for running both Manchester and London and hurting himself running so slowly. Simon, for managing to complete Cardiff without breaking sweat and being the most cheerful person I know and one of the kindest. Alun for keeping the sports trivia banter going throughout the pain in Wales. Paul our IT alchemist, Jason who gave us the van cut price and drove me to the start point on Sunday and my physios. Then of course there are the hundreds who turned up to the 'Endangered' lectures, the supporters along the routes (Sandie and Hazel particularly in Cardiff) and of course the Exodus staff who took time out to help. The hundreds of donatees who have taken the total over £20,000 - the JustGiving page is still live.
There are three others who deserve particular mention: my wife for her continual encouragement, understanding and humour during these past 'tiger' months and for stepping out on the last ten in Manchester. Then of course there is Louisa, the remarkable woman who managed this whole campaign with resourcefulness, enterprise, imagination and fortitude; I could not have done it without her. Lastly of course there is Terry. This is a man who somehow put up with an increasingly irritable Paul through thick and thin. He was my mentor, larder, drinks station and friend all rolled into one. His performance was beyond description; he showed incredible courage for a cause he is also passionate about. He has made himself unavailable for next year... I wonder.
There were so many high points. Most involve the reaction from people on seeing the suit so marvellously designed by Liz last year; they immediately realise this is not a cheesy attention grabber, this is a proper, emotive cause and they quickly buy into it, in spades. Grabbing a BBC interview with the delicious Denise Lewis was a bonus (as was all the media coverage) but rounding the elbow off the bridge was just extraordinary with crowds twelve deep delivering a deafening decibel count. The low points: well the thirty or more people who shouted 'come on lion man' (what do they teach at school these days?), but the nadir came in Cardiff city centre on Friday as someone called out 'look, there's that runner from Explore'.
However, the walk of pain from Horse Guards to Waterloo via Trafalgar Square with some of team tiger was massively uplifting. Thousands were willing to show their respect to the cause. Hundreds said they had seen it on TV. Walking into work this morning one person said they had seen me. This is how it should be and must be; it is about the four-legged creature not bipeds; we'll leave those egotistical campaigns to gushing C-listers.
Of all the 'catcalls' on the route, many were from those of an age to remember the Esso petroleum campaign: 'There's a tiger in your tank'. This is yet again another example of big companies endorsing the tiger in name only (add cereals, beer and golfers into this dubious cabal). Well right now the 'tank' is empty. Many have asked whether I would consider re-fuelling it for next year... next year is a long way off, the tiger's extinction may not be, I'll leave it there. Thank you.
By Paul Goldstein
Tiger Found - Photo Competition Winner!
Thank you very much to everyone who sent in their sitings and photos of our tiger as he ran his four marathons; we've loved going through them and they have helped raise even more money for Worth More Alive II. The winning photograph was taken by Julie Oldroyd; she wins a limited edition signed and framed tiger print by Paul Goldstein. He also judged the competition:
'This ticks just about every tiger box. 1. My ugly mug is not included. 2. The feet are almost in perfect unison. 3. It is well lit. 4. It is inescapably Brighton. 5. It was taken in portrait. But it is the colour that makes this. Not only is this bustling seaside resort town shown in all its spring glory but the photographer has matched the orange flanks of the tiger beautifully with the ginger haired runner in the forground. Tiger and ginger - magnificent!