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C365: Malcolm Smith

June 2, 2014

Since I was a teenager I have believed two things…that anything can be achieved, and that young people can change the world!

I’ll turn 36 this year which is something of a milestone for me as 18 years ago I had a major operation to get my body straight.  My dream as a kid was that I would run the London Marathon one day but it was always going to be a challenge after this operation.  18 years on and that time has come!!

I’ve been involved in youth work for 20 years, starting as a teenage volunteer and now being responsible for the YMCA in our neck of the woods.   My belief that anything can be achieved and that young people can change the world has been a real driving force behind my own determination but also to do all I can to help young people who haven’t had the phenomenal support of friends and family that I’ve been privileged to have, achieve their full potential.  Nothing gives me more joy than to see one of the young people we work with achieve.  Be that the grades they needed in education, getting themselves out of debt, sorting a relationship out, or as ‘simple’ as baking a cake…life deals the guys and girls we work with a tough hand, and I’m so glad that the YMCA and other charities like us are there to make sure that their foundations remain in place to build the rest of their lives.

Someone should really put a health warning on having children. I was pretty active before my three boys arrived and then all your energy goes into just staying awake. Two-and-a-half stone later and age catching up with you just running round the block becomes a challenge!

My dream of running the London Marathon however remained but, after a couple of false starts (age had caught up with me, and my head thought I was still able to do all I could when I was in my early 20s) and some potentially serious injuries, I thought I’d never run again – my body’s defects had finally won.

A few years later (after I’d gotten over the realisation that I couldn’t do anything!!) I made a couple of conscious choices; forget the ultimate goal, change the way you eat and get fit.  Six months later and two stone lighter someone asked me why I was doing all this training.  The only reply I could give was ‘vanity’!  I was joking but in part it was true, I’d lost sight of my hopes and dreams, believing instead that I couldn’t do these things anymore. Then friends asked me to join them on their Tough Mudder team.

These guys (not that they know it) didn’t really know me, but I’ll be forever grateful to them; the camaraderie, team work and drive to complete what seemed like a daunting challenge caused me to believe again. If we could run 13 miles up and down the Yorkshire Dales, jump into shipping containers full of ice, scale 10ft walls, crawl through electrified swamps and run up perpendicular walls then my dreams of completing a marathon…not just a marathon but 100 miles are achievable!

My personal journey is momentous to me. It may not be that big a deal to others, but I know that challenges can be overcome.  When life puts barriers in the way, you have a choice, do you capitulate or carry on?  Do you give up or try again?  I almost gave up.  I had given up, but it was the inspiration of those around me who (without them even knowing) gave me the drive to try again.

I want to make sure that the YMCA can continue to be that inspiration for the hundreds of young people we come into contact with every year.  Some of them are close to giving up, others have, others still fight on refusing to let life beat them but they all need support, and encouraging word, a congratulating hug or smile, someone to believe in them.

We’ll go through the pain barrier this year to help them. Please support us and in term support them.