Why I'm running for WaterAid

Journalist Tom Parry is running for WaterAid in Sunday's London Marathon. Here he shares his reflections ahead of race day.


10 Apr 2014 | UK

This Sunday I will be proud to put on my WaterAid running vest before heading to the London Marathon start line. Alongside me will be thousands of fellow competitors running for many worthy charities – but I’m glad my 26.2 miles will be tied in to WaterAid.

As a journalist who has worked with many international humanitarian agencies over recent years, I always feel that this one stands out because of its unique objectives.

I will be doing a marathon only once (it’s my first) and I hope to complete it in around four gruelling hours; but many of the people that WaterAid supports face a marathon of their own every day. These are not competitive athletes with a carefully honed training programme; they are ordinary people without access to safe water.

In many countries in the developing world, the task of walking to the nearest water source every morning often falls upon young girls. They have no choice but to spend hours trudging across desert scrub, disease-infested marshes, or through squalid slums to get to a well, pump or a source of water that looks clear enough to drink.

Tom Parry - WaterAid runnerHours spent walking out clutching an empty bowl or plastic bucket; hours walking back with the same receptacle, but this time full of water. And, with a whole family dependent on this single delivery, not a single drop can be spilled.

It makes my task on Sunday – something I have chosen to do – seem extremely easy in comparison.

Incredibly, even in this century, 768 million people in the world live without safe water. This is roughly one in ten of the world’s population. Diarrhoea is the second biggest killer of children under five years old worldwide. That’s 2,000 children dying every day – a horrific figure.

There are so many statistics like this, but without WaterAid the figures would undoubtedly be even more alarming. WaterAid’s dedicated employees help deliver safe water, sanitation and hygiene in 26 countries. They transform lives that would otherwise be cut short by water-borne diseases. Much of the work it does is not glamorous, but it is always vital.

If events like the London Marathon help give some of those young girls an opportunity to get an education instead of walking hours a day for water, it has to be worthwhile.

Good luck from all at WaterAid. Watch our video >