Active Champion for A Good Cause
Spencer West partner Sivan Gelb craves escalating levels of challenge as he raises funds for charities supporting spinal research and care. Hold onto your seats as we explore his most recent achievements.
How did you first get involved in supporting spinal charities?
My sister was in a car crash when she was a small child, and this left her paralysed from the waist down. It was a traumatic event, but I’ve tried over the years to turn it into something constructive by working for various spinal charities over the past twenty years or so. Aspire is the latest. I must have done twenty to thirty charity events over the years, raising about £60k. My latest venture, a cycle ride to Amsterdam, aims to raise 40k for Aspire, a charity that provides specialist care in spinal rehabilitation. This time is particularly special as my sister will be taking part herself using a hand cycle. She has previously done a run with me in her wheelchair, but this challenge is going to be even more of a partnership.
What do you enjoy most about doing this?
When you have a personal family connection with an issue, it makes you particularly passionate. I’m now an Ambassador for Spinal Research, and it’s very rewarding to bond with the medical experts. I do quite a bit of socialising. Some of the challenges, like the 100km walk at night, have been quite lonely, but most of the challenges are sociable. Everybody has a story to tell.
A lot of it is pure endurance, which means pushing myself. I’ve even been sky diving, and considering the fact that I hate heights, this was a challenge that really went to the heart of my motivation and resilience. It was the closest I came to not doing it. People doubled the money because they knew I was scared!
Tell us more about the sky dive!
It was the build-up, with seven or eight people jumping one-by-one. I was the last one. The expert pushed me out, which is his job, and I was amazed at how much I enjoyed the moment. It was a floating feeling, like nothing else. Because you’re so high up, the fear strangely disappears. Abseiling was the same. As soon as I started, the fear vanished.
Do you have any recommendations for endurance?
I always say go with what you train with. Don’t suddenly try anything new.
And what about nutrition?
Porridge is great in the morning, and then it’s good to top up on small amounts of natural foods. Bananas and nuts are both great for short bursts of energy. “Naked” bars with oats are great too. I don’t get on well with the artificial supplements. But it’s whatever works for you, and there’s no one size that fits all.
A lot of it is in the mind; mind over matter. I tend to break up endurance activities. 100km is such a big number you have to break it up in your head, so every ten or fifteen kilometres you have a snack break. In running events, if you get into the zone, you sometimes can’t work out where the last five miles have gone.
I always think about why I’m doing it, who I’m doing it for, and the money I’m trying to raise. The money, apart from making a difference to the charities, is a useful way of putting a number on what I’ve done, of measuring the impact.
Why do your challenges seem to get harder every time?
It’s getting harder and harder to think up fresh ways of raising money. I like to ask people for money by presenting something original and different each time. COVID was a difficult time to raise money. One idea to cut through the COVID fundraising malaise was a running relay from John O’Groats to Land’s End, and I was trying to recruit a team to do that. But it all fell apart in the end due to COVID. I did the London Marathon virtually, but it wasn’t the same. Charities lost a huge amount of money, and now is the time post-COVID to make up that shortfall.
Have you got any initial thoughts for the next challenge after Amsterdam?
I want whoever donates the most money to be able to specify the challenge. That was how the sky-dive happened. The next one is the Land’s End to John O’Groats. If we can get 20 miles a day each, between us that’s a hundred miles a day, and we will cover the ground quite quickly.
Sivan, you’re a true Action Man for Good Causes. Thank you for speaking with me.
Donate to Sivan’s London to Amsterdam cycle ride in aid of Aspire here >> https://www.justgiving.com/team/London-Amsterdam