Stepping in to run 10K for Viva

In sickness and in health
To love and to cherish
To run a 10K race on your behalf when your knee packs in…

OK, the last line probably wasn’t in Cian Stavers’ wedding vow – but now, 18 years later, her commitment and devotion to husband Mark is clear as she prepares to step into his shoes and take on the challenge of the Hong Kong Standard Chartered 10K run next Sunday (21 January).

As Viva’s CEO, Mark Stavers was in Hong Kong last January to meet supporters and spend time with the staff team. He attended a thank you dinner for the group of runners who had just completed the race and made a throwaway comment of “maybe I’ll do it next year”.

Mark wasn’t allowed by colleagues to forget his pledge, and in spite of his displeasure for running, entered a ballot for the 2018 event, got selected and began to prepare.

“I started my training in LA, which sounds very glamorous, but when you feel like dying because you are so unfit, it doesn’t really matter where you are!” says Mark. “However, after a few runs I was finding I was enjoying myself.”

“So, when I injured my knee in November, after just a month of running, and told by my doctor that I had to totally rest, I was actually disappointed.”

With time running out for Mark to regain fitness and sponsorship money already coming in, Cian – who is Viva’s Database Manager – decided she should be Mark’s substitute to continue to raise money and to honour people who had already pledged.

It hasn’t exactly come naturally for Cian though. “I haven’t run a race since I was in school!” says Cian. “I did a ‘Couch to 5K’ course through Park Run to improve my general fitness ahead of a Viva fundraising walk up Kilimanjaro in December 2015, but I didn’t go back to it afterwards – I had no target any more to motivate me!”

“With training, some days I feel really confident and I can run really easily; others I feel like my legs are jelly. I’m hoping for the former on Sunday!”

Cian hasn’t yet managed to cover the full 10K having recently developed a chesty cough, so is currently resting in the hope it disappears and she can train more before the day.

“It is a very real possibility that the race may be the first time I run 10K! At least I know I’ll get a new personal best on Sunday whatever my time is! I’m looking forward to the buzz of thousands of people all running together.”

Cian will miss the encouragement of her training partner Jane who has motivated her on runs – although she hopes to be able to run with another of the Viva HK supporters who are taking part. She is also concerned about the possible impact of the time difference and jet lag.

Being in Hong Kong gives Cian the opportunity to see the breath-taking city skyline from a ferry at night and to try real Chinese food. “I’m really looking forward to seeing our fantastic colleagues at Viva Hong Kong again as I am going to spend a week working in the office there after the race.

“I hope to see Kanice, our Child Protection Officer, in action delivering Viva’s safeguarding training and hear about the impact she is having raising awareness of this crucial and growing issue in Hong Kong.”

Viva’s work to protect children from abuse and to change their lives is the fundamental motivation for Cian as she ties up the laces on her trainers and stands on that start line.

She recalls a moment at the Inside Viva supporters’ event in Oxford last May when she was again moved by stories of children in the most dire of situations and the amazing faithful networks of Christians risking their lives, in many cases, to make those children safer.

“I was supposed to be timekeeping the event but I just sat there weeping – it was a bit embarrassing to be honest. Eventually I said, ‘I didn’t realise how bad it was’.”

Cian was reminded afresh how safe we are in the UK and all that we have. “I’m putting myself through a little hardship to try and raise as much money and awareness as I can to support my colleagues and the networks they serve.”

If you’re considering following in Cian’s footsteps to fundraise for Viva this year, she says: “Please do! Viva is a fab organisation, with an amazing team making a difference to children’s lives all over the world – our effort will be well worth it.

“And now I’m on the team who’ll support you every step of the way with fundraising ideas and encouraging tips, you can give me a call to chat – probably after I get back from Hong Kong though!”


HK at night ph: Andrew Wulf